In Death Valley, California, the sun shines bright almost every day of the year.
In Death Valley, Baton Rouge, the light shines bright for almost all of LSU’s home football games.
When the lights turn on, opposing teams usually turn off.
They call it Death Valley for a reason. The LSU Tigers are 25-1 in their last 26 home games under the leadership of coach Les Miles. By now, most sports fans know that.
Let’s break it down and divulge into something a bit more interesting.
Since Nick Saban fled Baton Rouge for Tuscaloosa, Les Miles took over and coached his team to three consecutive ten win seasons, including a National Championship in 2007-2008. Though the Tigers haven’t been quite the dominating force they were in Miles’ first three seasons, they are getting the job done this season with a 3-0 record.
However, one thing many might overlook in the limelight of that impressive 25-1 night record is the quality of teams that made up the pieces of that 26 game streak. Look closely, and you’ll see that over half of those teams came in as more than a 21 point underdog. Those 14 teams were typically defeated handily.
As for the other 12 teams, it was a bit of a different story.
LSU played it’s fair share of home night games against Tulane, Louisiana Tech, and bunch of Sun Belt teams such as North Texas and UL Lafayette.
They also played their fair share of teams that were much more competitive, like conference foes and quality Sun Belt teams like Troy.
Those games were much, much closer.
Of the 12 "decent" teams LSU played at home to compile that 25-1 record ( I.E. teams that were less than a 20 point underdog), only two of those teams went home embarrassed. The other ten teams were able to stay within two scores.
West Virginia is in for a huge challenge, but it’s nothing the Mountaineers haven’t faced. Last season they went into Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium and played relatively even with the Tigers. Despite racking up 500 yards of offense, the Mountaineers lost the game. The main reason for that was six turnovers, while Auburn turned the ball over just once.
Jordan-Hare Stadium might not be as loud and intimidating as Tiger Stadium, but it’s up there in the rankings.
Seventeen starters are back from that WVU team which blew a lead at Auburn, with a full calendar year of experience. If they have learned to exercise the discipline that was lacking in their sloppy turnover plagued game in Jordan-Hare Stadium, there’s no indication pointing to a blowout in Death Valley.
Saturday Night’s game in Baton Rouge will be entertaining, and the crowd will be loud within the excitement of the Tigers’ first big night game of the season. However, the crowd can only do so much.
When those lights go on, they will shine on both teams for this contest. West Virginia hasn’t lost by more than 11 points to any BCS foe in the last 48 chances, so expect a close one.