BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The sight of UAB taking the field in Death Valley will bring back some bad memories for LSU fans.
The conventional wisdom, however, is that the ninth-ranked Tigers won't need long to eliminate any fears of history repeating itself.
According to odds makers, LSU (1-0) is supposed to open its home slate on Saturday night with a nearly five-touchdown margin of victory over the Blazers (0-1).
UAB, by contrast, will aim to make its second trip to Tiger Stadium more like the first. That was back in 2000, in the first month of current Alabama coach Nick Saban's first season at LSU. The Blazers kept it close, won 13-10 on a last-second field goal, then celebrated wildly as the stunned and dejected home crowd filed out.
LSU coach Les Miles was quick to mention that upset when asked about welcoming a seemingly overmatched opponent to Tiger Stadium. It could have been a little dig at Saban, but Miles seemed genuine in his praise for Blazers coach Garrick McGee, who was once the offensive coordinator of Arkansas teams that gave Miles and the Tigers their share of problems in the past.
"He will do some of the same things that he did at Arkansas. Certainly it appears that way on film," Miles said. "The advantage that he has — he has some awareness having played against us before. I'm sure he'll do a great job game planning, and I think that we can look forward to being challenged that way."
For their part, UAB's current players don't seem to buy into the awe factor of Death Valley. Perhaps it's because they know their school's record against mighty LSU is 1-0, giving them reason to believe that anything is possible.
"We treat it like any other game. We played South Carolina and Ohio State last year, so that doesn't really faze me and I don't think it fazes anybody else," Blazers linebacker Jake Ganus said. "We are just going to go out there and play the game of football like we know how."
Here are five things to know heading into UAB's visit to Tiger Stadium:
NON-CONFERENCE DOMINANCE: While UAB draws inspiration from its last triumph in Baton Rouge, more recent history appears decisively on the Tigers' side, thanks to LSU's 32-0 regular season record against non-conference opponents since Miles' arrival in 2005. In fact, LSU has not lost at home to a non-Southeastern Conference team since falling to the Blazers on Sept. 23, 2000.
BLAZING OFFENSE: Although UAB dropped its opener at Troy, 34-31, it showed promise on offense and in its return game. Receiver Jamarcus Nelson had 10 catches for 199 yards, as well as 168 yards on kickoff returns, including a 97-yard touchdown. Quarterback Austin Brown passed for 301 yards and three TDs, and running back Darrin Reaves rushed for 110 yards.
DEVELOPING DEFENSE: LSU entered the season with only three full-time starters returning on defense, but less experienced players who were plugged into more significant roles this season largely passed their first test in LSU's 37-27 victory over TCU in Dallas last weekend. TCU had only one sustained touchdown drive, and that included a roughing-the-passer penalty on a third-down incompletion. The Horned Frogs' other TDs came on a kickoff return and a 6-yard drive after LSU running back Alfred Blue's fumble. In all, TCU gained only 259 yards.
"That defense looked awfully physical to me, very fast to the ball," Miles said. "It will be the same style of defense that we've had for years."
FRESHMAN IMPACTS: LSU played eight true freshmen in its season opener and Miles said even more could play against UAB, including safety Ricky Jefferson, as well as defensive linemen Tayshaun Bower and Lewis Neal. Meanwhile, UAB freshman receiver Jamari Staples has already emerged as one of the Blazers' top threats, with six receptions for 103 yards and a TD last week.
"I know my role, and I know what coach McGee and my other coaches are expecting out of me," Staples said. "I am going to do my best to live up to it."
RUSHING ROTATION: Miles has declined to say whether last year's leading rusher, Jeremy Hill, will return from his disciplinary benching. He also said he was happy with the way three other backs — Blue, Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard — played last week and expects rotate all three again.
"It's important that you're fresh. It's important that guys can get yards after contact," Miles said. "We're not making any determination of who starts and who doesn't at this point."
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Posted on Fri, September 6, 2013