PREVIEW: LSU v. Troy University

Houston, they have a problem… a serious problem.

Troy State, once considered a potential giant killer after opening the 2004 season with wins over Marshall and Missouri, and then knocking off Utah State three weeks later, rolled over and played dead against Arkansas State on Saturday night, losing 13-9.

Tiger fans remember Arkansas State – LSU demolished them 53-3 on September 11, the third of the Indians five losses this season. Troy State? Well its record is now a balanced 3-3, but this Trojan Horse is hollow and does not appear to be in any state to pose a threat to anybody.

Coming off a bye week, the men of Troy were confident they had Arkansas State's number, as the Indians had just dropped an ugly 45-17 decision to Middle Tennessee State. But, as is often the case, truth is stranger than fiction, and when the fulltime whistle blew the Trojans were on the wrong end of a four-point loss.

The game started promisingly for Troy State, and with 1:29 left in the first quarter the visitors drew first blood against the Indians when quarterback Aaron Leak hit receiver Joe Munson in the end zone from six yards out to give the Trojans an early 6-0 lead – but that would turn out to be their only lead of the game.

The extra point? Blocked, which comes as no surprise to anyone at this point in the season. It seems Troy State, while not a believer in accepting the charity point in football, has no problem making charitable donations though, as the Trojans committed three turnovers, the last of which came with 6:36 left in the game, leading to a game-winning 24-yard field goal for Indian kicker Eric Neihouse to ultimately seal Troy's fate.

A team that once had designs on ruining the Homecoming celebration of the 2003 National Champion Tigers, now appears thankful it was just invited to the party.

The Indians are the only common opponent the two teams have faced so far this season, and the outcomes could not have been more different.

Troy was held to just 249 yards against Arkansas State, while LSU raked up 461. Seven different Tigers scored against the Indians – including cornerbacks Travis Daniels and Corey Webster, the former with a 1-yard interception return and the latter with a six-yard reception – while the nine points the Trojans were held to was the lowest total Arkansas State had allowed all year.

Their previous lowest total? They held Louisiana-Monroe to 21 points in a 28-21 victory on September 25.

To repeat, Louisiana-Monroe scored 21 against the Indian defense.

Troy State did not break double figures. While running back DeWhitt Betterson (6-0, 218) has been able to keep the Trojans in close games, averaging 93.6 yards per game on the ground, he has been the only offense the team has been able to speak of as the passing game has been inconsistent at best.

Leak (6-3, 220) has completed 48-of-96 pass attempts for 683 yards, but has more interceptions (6) than touchdowns (5). Senior wide receiver Jason Samples (6-1, 197) has been on the receiving end of three of those touchdowns, and actually has a better yards-per-catch average (16.8) than any of LSU's starters.

The problem is, he Leak's only viable target split out wide, while Tiger quarterbacks Marcus Randall and JaMarcus Russell must choose between Skyler Green, Dwayne Bowe, Craig Davis, Amp Hill, Early Doucet, and Xavier Carter – while handing the ball off to Alley Broussard, Joseph Addai, Justin Vincent, and Shyrone Carey.

While Leak, Betterson, and Samples make up a talented trio, they are essentially all the Trojans have in terms of offensive firepower, which makes for an easy time preparing as an opponent.

Betterson averages 4.7 yards per carry, which would be the best out of LSU's quartet – if it wasn't for Addai's gaudy 8.8 yard average. Sample's three receiving touchdowns are two fewer than Bowe has on his own. And the quarterbacks? Russell and Randall have each thrown as many touchdown passes as Leak, but have combined to throw one fewer interception and 647 more yards.

Ordinarily, this one could be considered a trap game for LSU, as all the ingredients are in place: A ranked team coming off an emotional late win on the road against a higher-ranked opponent, taking a week off and returning home to face a wounded ‘nobody' that could easily be overlooked with a conference schedule that includes Alabama and Ole Miss still to come.

If it looks like a trap, and smells like a trap, right?

Not this time. The Tigers are too talented across the board, and have not forgotten what the losses to Auburn and Georgia tasted like. A third loss would knock LSU out of the New Year's Day Bowl picture, so the purple and gold will be playing with the rare determination that usually only accompanies clashes with the crème de la crème of the Southeastern Conference, instead of the fifth-best team in the Sun Belt.

With a bye week of their own, the Tigers are rested and injuries have been given a chance to heal. Webster, held out of practice all week with a slight meniscus tear in his knee, is expected to be back in action this week in preparation for his matchup with Sample, while an LSU defensive line that finally turned up to play against Florida in the Tigers' 24-21 victory has had an extra week to study Betterson, the 25th-ranked running back in the nation.

In comparison, the 19th-ranked Troy defense, led by junior defensive back Johnny Faulk's (5-10, 169) two interceptions and senior defensive end Demarcus Ware's (6-4, 232) eight sacks, will have its hands full with LSU's high-powered offense, as it finally meets an opponent that can throw the ball all over the field, while at the same time running more than effectively.

While the Tigers use the ground game to open up the passing game, the Trojans use their ground game to survive, with Leak firing the ball to Samples just often enough and just effectively enough to keep the opposition back on its toes.

After playing three of its fist six games on the road, Homecoming will be just that for LSU – a chance to kick back and enjoy four games in Tiger Stadium over the next five weeks. For the men of Troy however, a trip to Death Valley will be anything but a picnic, as they will be well aware that the opponent awaiting them inside Baton Rouge's version of the Coliseum is well armed and very dangerous. An upset is not entirely out of the question – LSU has been known to lose Homecoming games before – but if the Trojans want to remain in the game in the fourth quarter, they had better hope their wooden horse is able to generate a few offensive surprises late in the dark of the bayou night.

Tiger Blitz Top Stories