LSU Tigers: Terrance West

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU so physically dominated Florida last season in a 41-11 romp at Tiger Stadium, it might be hard to image this: Offensively, the 2012 Gators will be one of the more physical offenses the Tigers play all season.

Led by the SEC's second-best rusher in Mike Gillislee (402 yards on 69 carries), the 10th-ranked Gators run the ball more (44.5 times a game) and throw fewer passes (21.3 a game) than any other team in the SEC. And they do it well, as a 4-0 start and 30.5 points per game against a relatively competitive early schedule would attest.

The emergence of quarterback Jeff Driskel has indeed been a nice story for Florida. But make no mistake: The Gators are a running team.

So it's a steady dose of Gillislee and the more physical run game for which LSU's defense must prepare when the Tigers visit the Gators on Saturday at The Swamp. Forget the spread and high-powered passing attacks of years past. This season, Florida comes right at you.

"They look more downhill this year," LSU linebacker Luke Muncie said. "I wouldn't say more physical, but more downhill-style running."

Downhill is how things went for Florida almost from the opening kickoff last season against LSU. A young Gators team was outgained by more than a 2-1 margin in Baton Rouge, en route to an un-Florida-like 7-6 season in Will Muschamp's first year as coach.

"We faced some good athletes," Florida center Jon Harrison said. "We didn't come out there completely locked in."

This season, Muschamp's second, a more mature Florida team has looked quite dialed in.

The Gators have averaged 224.5 yards rushing a game, third best in the SEC. What's deceptive about it is while some SEC teams -- LSU included -- have played the bulk of their nonconference "gimme" games early, Florida has played three of its first four games against SEC opponents. While Florida's rushing stats trail LSU's (229 yards per game), the Gators' numbers have been compiled against Texas A&M, Tennessee and Kentucky while LSU has played a relatively light nonconference schedule.

"We know they are better [than last year]," LSU cornerback Tharold Simon said. "We see it on film."

Before the second half of last week's 38-22 win over Towson, facing a physical running game might not have seemed like a big concern for LSU. But Towson, led by one of the FCS's best running backs in Terrance West, gashed the LSU defense in two touchdown drives in which the Tigers missed tackles and gave up 69 rushing yards on 12 carries on Towson's last two possessions.

"That was uncharacteristic," LSU linebacker Kevin Minter said. "Usually, we finish games."

On paper, LSU's defense should be built to defend a team that runs like Florida or, for that matter, Towson's often straightforward attack. The fourth quarter of the Towson game aside, the Tigers have been outstanding against the run, third best in the SEC at 83 yards a game. One might think of the pass rush of Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery when thinking of the Tigers' front four, but really, it's built just as well to handle the run.

In its first SEC game, a 12-10 win at Auburn, LSU saw Auburn choose to go with a misdirection running game toward the edges to avoid running right at the talented middle of LSU's defense, where tackles Bennie Logan and Anthony Johnson have dominated the point of attack and where Minter has been emerging as a first-rate middle linebacker.

Even with its remarkable speed, Auburn's misdirection didn't work, for the most part. Montgomery had 3.5 tackles for loss, often the result of staying home on misdirection plays. It's a trend this season. While the 5-0 Tigers have a fair share of quarterback sacks (11), the 41 tackles for loss are more remarkable. Considering that opponents have attempted 155 rushes, 41 tackles for loss means LSU is dumping opponents for loss on more than a quarter of their rush attempts.

The good thing for LSU was that Florida uses some of the same misdirection elements Auburn used. And, when Auburn did have success, it was mostly with a Wildcat look with backup quarterback Jonathan Wallace, a look Florida also uses at times with Trey Burton.

After LSU stymied Auburn's rush attack, the Tigers' rushing defense looked almost impenetrable. It stayed that way until the fourth quarter of the Towson game until an FCS team ran roughshod over LSU on back-to-back possessions.

"Our defense is known for playing the run hard and having that killer instinct," Minter said after the Towson game. "We just didn't today."

Like Florida in Baton Rouge a season ago, LSU wasn't "locked in."

A year more mature and a year better, Florida's run game is focused this season. The question is, will LSU's defense find itself again after an off night against Towson?

Hardly 'Transfer U,' Towson ready for LSU 

September, 28, 2012
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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.

Five storylines: Towson vs. LSU 

September, 27, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- In our weekly look at five storylines that can have a major impact on LSU's next game, we peek at the LSU opponent you probably know the least about, Towson.

1. Clean it up

LSU has had a tendency for penalties and poorly-timed turnovers this season. In its first three games, the Tigers got away with it. But they almost cost LSU a game in a 12-10 win over Auburn. LSU dominated statistically, but almost lost in no small part because of recurring turnovers and penalties. LSU needs that corrected before heading into the meat of its schedule (Florida, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Alabama, Mississippi State).

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Miles respects Towson, Terrance West 

September, 26, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- Say what you want about the name LSU is facing this week, but LSU coach Les Miles knows his team won't play a more accomplished running back this season than Towson's Terrance West.

He set an NCAA FCS freshman record with 29 rushing touchdowns last season for the Tigers and has continued that torrid pace with five more in the first three games for Towson (2-1), ranked No. 12 in the FCS's Sports Network poll.

"He's a talented player," Miles said. "He's elusive, has good ball skills."

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Countdown to kickoff: Hello, Towson 

August, 9, 2012
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GeauxTigerNation writers Gary Laney and David Helman get you ready for the season with a daily breakdown throught August of what LSU is facing in the fall, from its opponents, to its road trips to who it's recruiting. Today, Gary Laney has a Q&A with Everett Cook of the Baltimore Sun, who covers LSU's Sept. 29 opponent, Towson:

Q: Towson was the most improved team in Division I last season, going 9-3, winning the Colonial Athletic Association for the first time in school history and making the FCS playoffs. Have the Tigers scraped out a niche in the Baltimore sports market? If not, can they?

Yes. Head coach Rob Ambrose arrived as head coach of his alma mater in 2009, and Towson has increased its attendance every year since then — even when the Tigers won three combined games in 2009 and 2010. Their first-ever sellout came during the FCS playoffs last year, and 11 out of the 20 biggest crowds in Towson football history have come in Ambrose’s three years as head coach. Ambrose made it a priority to not just rebuild the team, but to also rebuild the atmosphere around the program when he became head coach — which included getting alumni and current students out to the games. Towson’s market will only continue to grow.

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