The Inside Slant

The Tigers meet Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday night in Death Valley. Go inside for this week's Inside Slant.


   Having played two big SEC games over the last three weeks, LSU takes a break from league play by hosting Louisiana-Monroe before getting ready for a closing run that features a home game against Ole Miss and trip to Little Rock to take on Arkansas.

   “This is a very interesting game,” coach Les Miles said of only the second meeting between the two in-state schools that are only 150 miles apart. "And it's one where they are a very talented football team, and they do have a very good offense.

   “Defensively, they'll tackle, and they're a physical group. Our football team will understand that, and they'll be prepared.”

   Much of that is coach speak, of course.

   The Tigers are overwhelming favorites and would have to make multiple mistakes to lose. But there is one "X" factor that could affect their overall mood.

   The Tigers should know by the time of their kickoff against the Warhawks how Auburn and Georgia have fared earlier in the day in a game that holds the key to LSU's fate in the Western Division race.

   If Auburn wins, the race is over. The worst it could finish in the division would be 7-1, which LSU can match by winning out in the conference. Auburn then would hold the tiebreaker for the berth in the championship game.

   But if Auburn loses to Georgia, LSU's division hopes would still be alive. If Auburn would then go on to lose to its in-state rival Alabama, LSU would get into the SEC title game by winning out.

   Even Miles had to acknowledge that there was no way his players wouldn't be keeping an eye on Auburn-Georgia as they go through pregame rituals in readying for the Warhawks.

   “I don't think there is any way that our team will not have interest in that score,” he said.



   --Statistical comparisons don't mean much considering the differences in the level of competition LSU and ULM have faced, but the Tigers are looking at a huge difference when it comes to the teams' respective passing games. The Tigers are averaging 146.4 ypg passing, 112th in FBS statistics. The Warhawks are averaging 249.1 ypg, 37th in the country.

   --LSU has won 30 consecutive non-conference games in Tiger Stadium since a 13-10 loss to UAB back in 2000.

   --LSU's last game against a Sun Belt team was a 40-31 win over Troy in 2008. The Tigers had to rally from a 31-10 deficit after three quarters, scoring 30 unanswered points over the final 15 minutes.

   SERIES HISTORY: LSU leads ULM 1-0 (last meeting, 2003, 49-7 LSU).

   SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: LSU is one of the top rushing teams in the conference, averaging 184.2 ypg behind the efforts of RB Stevan Ridley, who is contributing about half that (90.1 ypg) by himself. QBs Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee are sharing time, though Jefferson remains the starter. WRs Terrence Toliver, Reuben Randle and Russell Shepard all have good speed and have combined for 82 catches for 991 yards and six touchdowns.

   SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Tigers lead the SEC and are sixth nationally in total defense, allowing just 282.89 ypg. They are No. 1 in the league and eighth nationally in pass defense, allowing 157.67 ypg. DT Drake Nevis leads the Tigers in tackles for loss (12.5) and sacks (6.0), and LB Ryan Baker is just behind with 9.0 and 5.5, respectively. The Tigers will be without SS Brandon Taylor, who is fourth on the team in tackles (44).

   QUOTE TO NOTE: “I'm not ready to lobby for my team at this point. The only thing I can tell you is that we have been really on the sideline of this BCS conversation, and it involved many other teams. It just never could seem to get to us.” -- Coach Les Miles, on LSU's position at No. 5 in the BCS rankings.



   THIS WEEK'S GAME: Louisiana-Monroe at LSU, Nov. 13 -- The Tigers play their final non-conference game of the regular season when they are host to the Warhawks of ULM. LSU has won its last 32 non-conference games, including three this season (North Carolina, West Virginia and McNeese State). Though this is only the second time the Tigers have played the Warhawks, they have won 26 in a row over in-state opponents and are 33-0 all-time against current members of the Sun Belt Conference.

   KEYS TO THE GAME: Pay attention. ULM doesn't have anywhere near the talent or depth it needs to compete against LSU, but the Tigers can't get sloppy. That is often when injuries occur, and with Ole Miss and Arkansas coming up, the Tigers don't want that.


   CB Patrick Peterson -- Peterson has been quiet recently but could have an opportunity for a big game if ULM goes to throwing the football, as expected. Peterson has had only seven opportunities to return punts the last four games (74 yards) after having 12 in the first five games (283 yards). He has had six kickoff returns for 144 yards the last two games (Auburn and Alabama).

   WR Reuben Randle -- Randle has several key catches in the win over Alabama, including a 75-yard reception for a touchdown and a 47-yard catch and run on third down during LUS's final drive. He is tied with WR Terrence Toliver for the team lead in receptions (28) and leads in receiving yardage (459).

   WR Russell Shepard -- Shepard has 26 catches for 169 yards but is more dangerous as a runner. He had a big 41-yard dash in the win over Bama and is LSU's third-leading rusher with 227 yards on just 30 carries, a 7.6 average.


   --SS Brandon Taylor (foot) is considered a "long-term loss," according to coach Les Miles.

   --CB Mo Claiborne (head) is considered day-to-day.

   --RT Alex Hurst (leg) was injured in the first quarter against the Crimson Tide and didn't return to the game. He is doubtful for this weekend.

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