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LSU prepares for SEC opener

Published: Sep. 12, 2011 at 9:37 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 31, 2011 at 9:30 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Following Saturday's easy 45-3 rout of Northwestern State, LSU head football coach Les Miles and company set their sights on Thursday's SEC opener at No. 25 Mississippi State. The Tigers obviously don't have much time to prepare for a Bulldogs team playing their home opener in Starkville. The contest is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff and will be nationally televised by ESPN.

"We look at this game in three pieces," Miles told the media Monday at his weekly press luncheon, "One, it's the SEC opener. Two, we have two less days to prepare. And finally, we must improve."

Miles added the team will be working against crowd noise at practice, as many younger LSU players will be venturing into a hostile SEC environment for the first time. LSU played their first game away from Tiger Stadium against Oregon, but some estimated roughly three-fourths of the crowd at Cowboys' Stadium was rooting for the purple and gold. Despite that, Miles said that evening still gave his team some challenges in communication and being able to operate properly.

The game will certainly feature strength against strength. MSU currently has the top offense in the SEC, averaging 588 yards per game. The Bulldogs also lead the league in rushing yards per contest, pounding out an average of 321 yards. Senior running back Vick Ballard also tops the conference in individual rushing, having gained 301 yards, with a 9.7 per carry average and 4 touchdowns. LSU counters with the top rushing defense in the SEC, allowing only 45.5 yards per contest and an anemic 1.7 yards per carry.

When it comes to LSU running the ball, Miles praised the play of Michael Ford. Miles said Ford gives the Tigers "energy and juice" off the bench for Spencer Ware. On paper, it looks like a great matchup for the Tigers offense and rushing attack. State is poor against the run, allowing nearly 200 yards per game rushing, good for only No. 99 in the country. LSU, on the other hand, has pounded out 175 yards rushing in each of its two victories.

The Tigers are 36-0 under Miles when they rush for over 100 yards, while also holding their opponent beneath the 100-yard rushing plateau. LSU has likewise dominated this series, winning 18 of the last 19 meetings. State hasn't beaten the Tigers since 1999 and has often been routed by LSU since.

Miles said there is no update or new news surrounding Jordan Jefferson and Josh Johns. He did say linebacker Ryan Baker will return "with no restrictions" for the game Thursday. The coach said punter Brad Wing "was nicked" before the Northwestern State contest, citing that as the reason Wing failed to see the field against the Demons. Senior DJ Howard handled the kickoff duties for LSU Saturday, after junior Drew Alleman kicked off against Oregon. Howard recently told folks it was the first football game he's ever played in, having walked onto the team with a background in soccer.

Miles also praised the work of the grounds crew at Tiger Stadium, for doing such an outstanding job getting the field ready for the home opener. Miles called the surface the best they've ever played on in Death Valley. This will be the topic of the next "Jacques Talk" at WAFB.com, which will be posted Tuesday.

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