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Insider

Hardly 'Transfer U,' Towson ready for LSU

9/28/2012

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Like a lot of powerhouse programs in the FCS, Towson has a roster dotted with transfers from big-time programs.

It's a little advantage FCS schools -- which play with 22 fewer scholarships than their FBS counterparts and have a playoff to determine a national champion -- have over smaller FBS programs. Transferring to the FCS allows a player exiting a major program to play right away instead of sitting out a year at another FBS school. Conversely, FCS schools can fill holes with "free agent" transfers.

Towson (2-1), which visits No. 3 LSU (4-0) Saturday, has 13 FBS transfers. Considering they came to Towson from places like Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia Tech, one would expect most to be starters.

That's not the case.

Of the transfers, only linebacker Telvion Clark (Virginia Tech), cornerback Jordan Love (Georgia) and defensive end Romale Tucker (Syracuse) are listed as starters for the Tigers. Towson's leading rusher and receiver and its three top tacklers were all high school recruits, and its starting quarterback came via junior college. Of the FBS transfers, only Tucker, Towson's best pass rusher (3 sacks), leads the Tigers in a major statistical category.

So forget the stereotype of the FCS power made up of ex-BCS mercenaries, Towson (2-1), the defending champion of the Colonial Athletic Association, is mostly a team of program-developed high school recruits, many good enough to beat out players who originally signed with bigger programs.

Will any of that make a difference against the mighty LSU Tigers, probably the best team Towson has ever faced? Probably not. More likely, Saturday's meeting (6 p.m. CDT, ESPNU) will be a tuneup for both teams as they head for more meaningful games on their respective conferences.

Three things to watch

1. Cleaning up: In the game after a closer-than-expected 12-10 win over Auburn and before an Oct. 6 showdown at Florida, LSU will feel the need to clean up its act. LSU is 11th in the SEC in penalty yards (59 yards a game) and has had five turnovers within 26 yards of one goal line or another. In other words, huge, momentum-shifters. The Tigers need to minimize these mistakes before going to Florida.

2. Stingy defense: After a dominant second half in which LSU shut out Auburn, the Tigers appear to again be outstanding on defense this year despite losing two first-round NFL draft picks (Morris Claiborne and Michael Brockers) and a Heisman Trophy finalist (Tyrann Mathieu) from last year's unit. Can the trend continue?

3. Big-time chance: Towson was not considered a high-end FCS program until the surprise CAA championship last season. Competing well with LSU would further establish Towson's FCS rep. It would be a new experience for the Tigers, who are 0-5 all-time against FBS schools, having been outscored 208-68 in those games, including a 41-21 loss to Kent State in this season's opener.

LSU Tigers to Watch

1. LB Kevin Minter: In Towson's run-first offense (the Tigers run on 63 percent of their plays), LSU's leading tackler should see plenty of action.

2. RB Spencer Ware: After a breakout performance -- 90 yards rushing, 44 yards receiving -- in a 12-10 win over Auburn, Ware looked like he did early in 2011, when he was the Tigers' top rusher.

3. QB Zach Mettenberger: He's on here every week and for good reason. LSU will need the passing game in a tough stretch after Towson. He needs a good game to head into those games with confidence.

Towson Tigers to watch

1. RB Terrance West: Set an FCS record with 29 touchdowns as a freshman last season and has five more this year and 251 rushing yards. He's a physical runner at 230 pounds who resembles LSU's own physical backs.

2. QB Grant Enders: Aside from his three interceptions, he's been efficient, completing 75 percent of his passes (56-for-75) for 201.7 yards a game, a perfect complement to the West-led running game.

3. S Jordan Dangerfield: An active and physical safety, the senior has had two 90-plus tackle seasons in his career and leads the Tigers with 20 tackles, including 1.5 for loss, this season.

Key matchup: Towson LT Eric Pike vs. LSU RDE Sam Montgomery: Pike, a returning third-team all-CAA pick, leads an offensive line with four returning starters. If Towson is to make a game of it, it would likely involve a rushing game that averages 4.7 yards a carry moving the chains and shortening the game. That's a tall task against arguably the best defensive line in college football.

By the numbers

4-0: LSU's record to start the season, the sixth straight year its had a 4-0 start.

30-0: LSU's record under Les Miles in non-conference, regular-season games.

20: LSU's home winning streak, a school record.

40: LSU's non-conference, regular-season winning streak, an NCAA FBS record.