Rabalais: Oh, by the way, LSU has a game to play

The LSU mascot, Mike the Tiger, leads a cheer with cheerleader and the football team after an NCAA college football game against UAB in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. LSU won 56-17. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) Show caption
The LSU mascot, Mike the Tiger, leads a cheer with cheerleader and the football team after an NCAA college football game against UAB in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. LSU won 56-17. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

We interrupt the angst, anger and innuendo from the Sports Illustrated Oklahoma State investigation to bring you the rest of the LSU Tigers’ football season.

It’s impossible to recall an LSU game that generated less talk about the Tigers’ and their opponent and more about outside circumstances since hurricanes Katrina and Rita made their unwelcome visits at the start of the 2005 season.

The reason is about 65 percent the SI series and how it impacts then-OSU coach Les Miles and about 35 percent the fact that LSU is playing Kent State.

Kent State frankly created more buzz the last time one of its teams was here, when the Golden Flashes shocked LSU’s baseball team in a 1993 NCAA regional by the football-like score of 15-12.

Though Kent State was a win away from the Orange Bowl last season and boasts an Odell Beckham Jr.-like multi-threat talent in the small and speedy Dri Archer, this is an “all about us” game for LSU.

While Kent State hails from the same MAC conference as Miami of Ohio-ho-ho-ho — pardon a nod to our former sports editor Sam King, who had a lot of fun with that stunning upset back in 1986 — this is a game LSU will win if it takes the task seriously. That’s evidenced by their 43 straight nonconference regular-season wins.

But the biggest task for LSU, apart from posting a winning score, is for the Tigers to work on themselves. Consider this game a self-help session with shoulder pads and mouthpieces.

The No. 8-ranked Tigers have been impressive in their 2-0 start — though TCU’s 10-point loss at Texas Tech on Thursday night tarnished LSU’s 10-point win over the Horned Frogs.

But there are wrinkles that need ironing before the Tigers go steaming into Southeastern Conference play next Saturday night against Auburn.

Zach Mettenberger has been great passing to Jarvis Landry and Beckham, but no other LSU receiver has more than two catches. Getting a third receiver to emerge from the pack is a big offensive goal, as is shaking more rust off of Jeremy Hill’s running game.

Defensively, middle linebacker play has been middling. Lamar Louis has seven tackles, D.J. Welter five. The Tigers need real growth there, as well as at cornerback where Miles hinted we’re going to see more of freshmen Tre’Davious White and Rashard Robinson.

As for what the underwhelming SI series means for Miles, it seems to be more of a question for his public image than his tenure at LSU. SI’s big news from Okie State seems to be some players got some cash, smoked some pot, had a few wild times and at worst Miles looked the other way.

OK. The series surprisingly may help Miles with the people who count for him most: the LSU fans, the ones who fill Tiger Stadium’s seats and buy the jerseys and spend half their disposable yearly income on tailgating supplies.

If you root for Oklahoma State, you probably already viewed Miles as an opportunist who used their program as a stepping stone to a bigger, better job and are happy he left Mike Gundy behind to take over. But LSU fans, even the ones who have never thought well of him, will rally around their man — if he keeps winning.

“He may be a goofball,” they’ll say, “but he’s our goofball.”

If what we’ve been told is all there is, Miles wins in a walk. Winning on Saturdays is the bigger concern.