LSU nearing record for nonconference wins in the regular season
e_SDLqWe can’t take this team lightly at all. They’ll break our hearts by pulling out a victory in our home stadium.” Tharold Simon, LSU cornerback
The University of Washington represents the 29th team from outside the Southeastern Conference to play LSU in a regular-season game since Les Miles became the Tigers’ coach seven years ago.
LSU is 28-0 in such games under Miles and has won its last 38 regular-season nonconference games, including the last 10 in Nick Saban’s tenure as head coach. The Tigers’ last regular-season loss to a team that doesn’t play in the SEC was a 26-8 setback at No. 16 Virginia Tech of the Atlantic Coast Conference to start the 2002 season.
If LSU beats the Huskies of the Pac-12 Conference in Tiger Stadium on Saturday night, it will tie the FBS record for longest winning streak in nonconference regular-season games, set by Kansas State (1993-2003).
“Coach (Miles) stresses every week that every game is important in getting to the end of the road and where we want to be — in the championship (game),” safety Eric Reid said. “Every week, we know our opponent, and we know what we’ve got to do, and coach tells us that if we do what we have to do we’re going to be hard to beat, and we just trust in our coaches, and they trust in us.”
More often than not, nonconference games feature opponents less formidable than the elite SEC opponents and sometimes than even the not-so-elite SEC opponents. The Tigers began the season against North Texas last week, improving to 3-0 against the Mean Green during Miles’ tenure, and will play Idaho next week and Towson two weeks after that.
The Huskies (1-0) aren’t ranked, but they are receiving votes in both polls, they come from an automatic-qualifying conference and represent the most challenging nonconference team on the Tigers’ schedule.
“I just believe it’s our mindset,” defensive tackle Anthony Johnson said when asked to explain the streak. “We don’t want to lose to anybody, whether it’s nonconference or in conference.”
The SEC is widely regarded as the most challenging conference in the country, having produced the last six BCS champions and both finalists last season when Alabama beat LSU.
Nonconference opponents often come in the form of in-state rivals. During Miles’ tenure, LSU has played — and beaten — Tulane four times, Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana Tech twice each, McNeese State, Louisiana-Monroe and Northwestern State.
Out-of-state nonconference foes often come from non-automatic qualifying conferences, sometimes even non-FBS programs. Miles’ Tigers have played Appalachian State twice, Troy, Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky, among others.
But nonconference schedules aren’t limited to smaller programs or even unranked teams. During Miles’ tenure, LSU has played nonconference games against the No. 3 team in the country (Oregon in 2011), the No. 9 team (Virginia Tech in 2007), the No. 15 team (Arizona State in 2005), the No. 16 team (West Virginia in 2011), the No. 18 team (North Carolina in 2010) and the No. 22 team (West Virginia in 2010).
All of those games were played in September and the games against Arizona State, North Carolina and Oregon were season openers.
“Since I’ve been here,” senior defensive end Lavar Edwards said, “a lot of the stronger nonconference games have been in the beginning of the season. Going into the summer, we just prepare really hard doing the things that we do. We get a long period of time to prepare for that team.”
Senior center P.J. Lonergan cited the 40-27 victory against the Ducks when asked about the Tigers’ spotless nonconference record.
“They weren’t nearly what we see week in and week out playing in the SEC,” Lonergan said.
“Having to play the tougher teams in the conference, when you go play nonconference it’s a lot easier.”
No matter what category nonconference opponents fall into, the ones that have faced LSU in the last 10 seasons have one thing in common — they have all lost to the Tigers.
“We come out and prepare for every game the same whether it’s Bama or Florida or Georgia, or whether it’s North Texas or West Virginia or anybody like that,” Edwards said. “It’s just us staying focused and being prepared and when the game comes we’re ready.”
Miles declined to talk specifically about the streak, perhaps offering insight to the secret of the nonconference success.
“We’re not going to talk about ifs and whens,” he said. “We really need to focus on a real quality Washington team. It’s all about this game week, and it’s all about playing for victory on Saturday night.
“We’re not looking at the next series of games. It’s not about these three or those two or this one on the road or that one at home. We’ll never really go by a team and never look too far ahead because it’s all about improvement.”