The No.9-ranked LSU Tigers will travel the farthest they have ever been – 2,550 miles – for their Saturday evening date with the Washington Huskies in Seattle, which will be televised nationally by ESPN.
The last – and only - time the two teams met, LSU notched a 40-14 win over UW in Tiger Stadium in 1983.
The Tigers head into the contest ranked No. 9 in the USA Today Poll and No. 11 in the Associated Press Poll. This marks the eighth straight season that the Tigers have been ranked in the preseason AP and Coaches Poll.
This is the second time that head coach Les Miles has opened a season against a Pac-10 team. The Tigers traveled to Tempe, Ariz. to take on Arizona State in 2005, a decision that LSU took, 35-31. The win over the Sun Devils was Miles’ first victory with the Tigers. In his four seasons at the helm, Miles has reeled off 42 wins, four bowl victories and a national title – the best four-year stretch in the history of LSU football.
In 2008, the Tigers averaged 30.9 points per game, while the Huskies averaged just 13.3. LSU allowed opponents to score an average of 24.2 points per game, while UW allowed 38.6.
The Tigers rushed for an average of 166.8 yards per game and passed for an average of 201.3 in ‘08. The Huskies rushed for an average of 99.3 yards per game and passed for an average of 163.8.
LSU is led at quarterback by sophomore Jordan Jefferson, who emerged as the starter after he appeared as the Tigers signal caller down the backstretch in 2008.
After redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee tossed 16 interceptions last fall, Jefferson stepped in to put out the flames. The true freshman completed 36-of-73 passes for four touchdowns and an interception on the year.
At running back, the Bayou Bengals return Charles Scott off of one of the most impressive single season performances by a Tiger to date. The senior went for 1,174 yards and 18 touchdowns, the fifth highest rushing total and second best touchdown mark in LSU history.
Brandon LaFell leads the receiving corps, with Terrance Toliver as the second option. LaFell pulled in 63 receptions for 929 yards and eight touchdowns in 2008, while Toliver nabbed 22 passes for 257 yards and a score. Tight end Richard Dickson is also one of the leading names back. Last fall, the Ocean Springs native logged 31 catches for 324 yards and five touchdowns.
Defensively, the Tigers are paced by a number of returning names. After recording 64 tackles in 2008, Kelvin Sheppard will back up Jacob Cutrera at middle linebacker and Harry Coleman at strong side linebacker. Cutrera was in on 33 stops last fall, while Coleman – a former safety – led the team with 71 tackles.
Perry Riley, who made 60 tackles with a sack and an interception from the strong side linebacker spot in 2008, has been moved to the weak side.
Chris Hawkins, who led the team with three interceptions, is back as the second man at corner. Patrick Peterson, who was in on 32 unassisted stops last fall, is the No. 1 cornerback.
After a 0-12 season, the Huskies will look to rebound in all phases of the game.
At quarterback, Washington returns a healthy Jake Locker – who missed the final eight games of 2008 with a broken thumb. In the four games that Locker did suit up, the junior quarterback completed 50-of-93 passes for 512 yards and a touchdown. He added 275 rushing yards on 56 attempts.
D’Andre Goodwin will be Locker’s favorite target. Last season, Goodwin led the team with 60 receptions for 692 yards and a touchdown. The team’s second leading receiver, Jermaine Kearse, is also back. In 2008, Kearse hauled in 20 catches for 301 yards and a pair of scores.
The tailback spot remained open throughout the fall, though Chris Polk and Willie Griffin appear to be the frontrunners to get touches come game time. Polk started the first two games for the Huskies in 2008 before he suffered a shoulder injury. Griffin finished with the second most rushing yards on the team (230).
Defensively, first year coordinator Nick Holt will have the task of rebuilding a unit that allowed a school-record 451.8 yards per game in 2008.
Linebacker Mason Foster – who led the team with 105 tackles in 2008 – is the leading man in the middle. Another potential all-conference candidate is defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, who logged 65 stops and a team-high eight sacks last fall.
Donald Butler, who recorded 69 tackles last fall, and E.J Savannah – who led the team in tackling in 2007 – round out the linebacker corps.
In the secondary, strong safety Nate Williams is the headman. Williams finished his sophomore campaign with 38 unassisted tackles, 38 assisted stops and an interception.