Posted: Sep 13, 2013 5:31 PM by AP
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Why, here's a familiar early season scenario for eighth-ranked LSU.
A non-conference team enters Death Valley on Saturday night as a more-than five-touchdown underdog.
Still, college football powerhouses are vulnerable to upsets, as many returning players at Kent State (1-1) know. The Golden Flashes had their first victory over a ranked opponent only 11 months ago, knocking off Rutgers team that came into the contest unbeaten and ranked 15th.
"Why not us? Why can't we win this game? Crazier stuff has happened," Kent State center Phil Huff said. "Why can't we beat them."
If LSU (2-0) answers that question as odds makers expect, Kent State will become the 44th straight non-conference opponent to lose a regular season game to the Tigers.
First-year coach Paul Haynes, familiar with LSU from serving as Arkansas' defensive coordinator last season, has definite ideas about how to prepare for the Tigers.
"They're not real flashy. They're not going to line up in bunch of formations and try to trick you," Haynes said. "They're going to try to pound you and wear you down.
The Tigers are trying to build on early success. LSU opened with a 10-point victory over No. 24 TCU, then overwhelmed UAB, beating the five-TD underdog Blazers by 39 points.
The Tigers' Southeastern Conference slate begins next week with a visit from Auburn. So LSU, which is developing its passing game under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, and which has a lot of new, young faces on defense, needs to reach top form in short order.
"We want to be rolling," guard Trai Turner said. "Right after this game, it's SEC play and we have to be ready for that."
Here are five things to know as Kent State aims to make LSU the second ranked team the Golden Flashes have beaten in 25 tries:
TAKING OFF: LSU's passing game appears to be blossoming under Cameron. So far, Zach Mettenberger has passed for six TDs and 533 yards, something no other LSU quarterback has ever done in the first two games of a season.
"I am seeing things very clearly. Guys are getting comfortable and we are able to get some rhythm," Mettenberger said.
SELF STUDY: The Golden Flashes are hoping their defensive struggles in last week's 41-22 loss to Bowling Green were anomalous. If it wasn't, it could get ugly. Kent State gave up a whopping 576 yards last week.
"Any time give up 40 points, (about) 600 yards, you really re-evaluate yourself," senior safety Luke Wollet said. "A lot of things were fixable and a lot of them were mental busts. ... We can't have it back. We can just learn from it."
GROUNDED: LSU has long been known as a power running team, but looked less dominant on the ground than usual last week against UAB. The Tigers still amassed 171 yards, but normally go well over 200 in lopsided games, and a good portion of their yards came after they stopped throwing in the anticlimactic fourth quarter. This week, The Tigers have talked about getting going on the ground again.
"Our goal this week is to block better in the running game," left tackle La'el Collins said. "Small things are stopping us. I am confident we are going to get better with our run-blocking. If we keep working, the sky's the limit for our running game."
EFFICIENCY: Kent State QB Colin Reardon has been efficient, completing better than 64 percent of his passes for four TDs and no interceptions.
YOUTH MOVEMENT: LSU has already played eight true freshmen on a defense that has undergone a lot of turnover since seven members of the Tigers' 2012 defense were selected in the NFL draft. Chavis expects at least that many to play against Kent State as he tries to determine who can be relied upon when the Tigers head into SEC play.