- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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LSU is gearing up for one of the most anticipated games in the SEC West ... in two weeks.
For now, Tigers coach Les Miles is tasked with reminding his team that it doesn't face top-ranked Alabama until Nov. 9. In order to enter its open date on a high note -- and extend its FBS-record nonconference winning streak to 45 games, No. 13 LSU (6-2) must first defeat Furman (3-4) on Saturday.
“There's guys on that team that could play for any SEC team that we play,” Miles said of LSU's upcoming FCS opponent. “I just want our guys to know they're not the best team that we've played, but they can play very, very well. We're going to have to play well to beat them.”
The Paladins don't seem like an opponent that will put up much of a challenge in the Tigers' homecoming game. LSU is 8-0 against FCS opponents, including 5-0 under Miles, and Furman hasn't beaten an SEC team since toppling Vanderbilt in 1963. Since then it is 0-7.
But coming off a flat performance in last Saturday's loss to Ole Miss, LSU has its own issues to worry about -- and self-examination is a big part of this week for everyone in the program, including Miles, who has taken the blame for the loss and the way he managed the clock late in the game.
The Tigers aren't entirely out of the Western Division race, but they likely need to win out -- including in games against Alabama and Texas A&M -- and hope Alabama and Auburn lose a time or two down the stretch.
“Don't get complacent,” receiver Jarvis Landry said. “Don't feel like that all that we've worked for and all we've trained for all season, all year long, is gone. Chances are there's still a chance and I need guys to believe that and believe in themselves and trust themselves and trust the guys around them to improve and get better each day.”
Getting better this week means cleaning up some of the issues that plagued the Tigers against Ole Miss. They turned the ball over three times -- all Zach Mettenberger interceptions -- and allowed the Rebels to go 11-for-18 on third down, which Miles said “is certainly not like us.” That dropped LSU to eighth in the SEC in third-down defense, as they have allowed opponents to convert 40.2 percent of the time.
“We had high hopes and we let one get away from us, so we've definitely got a lot of anger in us right now,” LSU defensive lineman Ego Ferguson said.
Unfortunately for Furman, a six-touchdown underdog, the Tigers might take that aggression out on the Paladins on Saturday. In fact, that might be exactly what LSU needs in order to exorcise some of the frustration for last weekend's loss in Oxford and to enter the open date ahead of the Alabama game with reason to believe a win is a realistic possibility.
“This football team has the ability to win and play against any team remaining on our schedule and we need to recognize that. We need to play like that,” Miles said. “And frankly, that's what gets me up and sends me to the building each day.”
10dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough