BATON ROUGE -- LSU steps out of conference play for the final time during the regular season on Saturday when the 14th-ranked Tigers host Fresno State of the Western Athletic Conference at 8 p.m. in Tiger Stadium.
The game will be televised to a national audience by ESPN2. It’s the first meeting between LSU and Fresno State in football. The teams have squared off before in the sports of men’s and women’s basketball and baseball.
LSU brings a 10-game home field winning streak into the contest, a streak that goes back to a win over Florida last season. LSU is 5-0 at home this year after winning its final five games in Tiger Stadium a year ago. LSU is 5-2 overall following last week’s 49-0 win over Kentucky in Tiger Stadium.
Fresno State, losers of five consecutive games, brings a 1-5 overall mark into Saturday’s game. The Bulldogs picked up their only win of the season in week one when they posted a 28-19 victory over Nevada.
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Fresno State’s 1-5 record is anything but indicative of how talented the Bulldogs are. Consider that Oregon, now No. 15 in the nation, scored late in the fourth quarter to beat Fresno State; Washington blocked a fourth quarter Fresno State extra-point attempt to salvage a 21-20 win over the Bulldogs; Fresno State led Colorado State 17-14 at halftime before falling 35-23; and Utah State scored a touchdown with 55 seconds remaining in its 13-12 victory over the Bulldogs two weeks ago.
Despite its 1-5 mark, LSU coach Les Miles said he expects to get Fresno State’s best effort on Saturday.
“They are a very dangerous team,” Miles said. “They have played very well at time this year. We better be prepared for their best shot on Saturday night. I can assure you that they are not coming here for a vacation and they are not coming here to see Louisiana. They are coming here to play the best football that they can muster. And we better play ours. That is the way that we will approach this game.”
The Tigers also go into the Fresno State game with the chore a facing a new Bulldog quarterback in Sean Norton, a sophomore with a knack for making things happen with the football. Last week against Hawaii, Norton came off the bench to throw for 225 yards and three touchdowns in the loss.
GameTime Conditions: Cloudy
LSU vs. Fresno St.
Quarter Break (between 1st and 2nd quarters)
The Tigers will defend Fresno State with a defense that is arguably the best in the nation as the Tigers lead the country in total defense (211.7 yards per game) and rank second in scoring defense (8.6 points per game). LSU is also among the top eight in the nation in pass efficiency defense (1st with an 81.8 rating), pass defense (4th at 139.7 yards per game), interceptions (5th with 11), and rush defense (8th at 72.0 yards per game).
LSU’s starting defensive front has combined for 13.5 sacks and 21 tackles for losses. Sophomore defensive end Tyson Jackson lead the Southeastern Conference with 6.0 sacks to his credit this year, while junior tackle Glenn Dorsey has seven tackles for losses and a pair of sacks for the Tigers.
Overall, sophomore linebacker Derry Beckwith leads the Tigers with 40 tackles, while senior safety LaRon Landry is second on the team with 35 tackles.
Offensively, the Tigers have put up staggering numbers this year, scoring 249 points in their first seven games. The 249 points is the most ever by an LSU team at this point in a season and it also makes the Tigers the most prolific scoring team in the SEC with a 35.6 average.
The Tigers, behind quarterback JaMarcus Russell, rank second in the SEC in total offense with 417.7 yards per game. LSU is averaging 263.3 yards passing and another 154.4 yards on the ground.
Russell goes into the Fresno State contest ranked among the national leaders in passing efficiency with a 171.1 rating. In seven games, Russell has connected on 120 of 174 passes for 1,700 yards and 13 scores.
Russell has the luxury of thrown to perhaps the nation’s top receiving corps in seniors Craig Davis and Dwayne Bowe, along with junior Early Doucet. The trio has combined for 97 receptions for 1,446 yards and 11 touchdowns this year. Bowe leads the team in TD receptions with six, while Davis is tops in both receptions (37) and yards (538).
When the Tigers aren’t throwing it, they turn to a running game that has been bolstered by the play of junior Jacob Hester. Hester leads the SEC in touchdowns with eight to his credit, six rushing and two receiving. Hester has rushed for 227 yards on 53 carries for the Tigers.
“We’ve had a good week of preparation for Fresno State,” Miles said. “This is a very talented Fresno State, one that is much better than their record indicates. Our team understands that. We are not going to take this team lightly. We're looking forward to playing our style of football, improving in a number of areas that we want to improve.”
After Saturday’s game against Fresno State, the Tigers will take a week off before traveling to face Tennessee on Nov. 4 in Knoxville.