No. 2 Louisiana State Tigers (3-0)
No. 16 West Virginia Mountaineers (3-0)
Mountaineer Field, Morgantown, WV
8:00 PM EST
With NCAA conferences engaged in a coast-to-coast game of musical chairs, West Virginia is one of the highest profile schools worried about having a place to sit when the music stops. On Saturday night, they host LSU in a nationally televised game that could amount to an SEC tryout.
Although the SEC reportedly denied West Virginia's initial request for admittance, they might be swayed if the Big East school knocks off LSU on its home soil (and not too many couches are burned in the celebration).
LSU enters the game having allowed an average of just 12 points per contest over its first three games. After holding Mississippi State without a touchdown last week, safety Brandon Taylor joked that he "expected them to score like one touchdown."
With quarterback Geno Smith under center, West Virginia figures to score at least one touchdown. Hopefully, Taylor will be pleased. Smith tossed seven touchdowns over his first three games and tallied a whopping 388 yards last week against Maryland.
To further discuss the persons and strategies likeliest to decide this game, while also providing some local flavor to the many football fans who will be watching this primetime tilt nowhere near Morgantown or Baton Rouge, we've enlisted representatives from each side of encounter. Providing the inside scoop on LSU is Ben Love of Tiger Rag. Sharing the inside scoop on the Mountaineers is the manager from The Smoking Musket. Both were kind enough to answer a few questions for HuffPost Sports.
HuffPost Sports: How has each team changed -- physically, mentally and/or schematically -- since last season's matchup when LSU defeated WVU?
Tiger Rag: LSU is different in that it's somehow managed to get better and even more stingier on defense minus four NFL Draft picks (Patrick Peterson, Kelvin Sheppard, Drake Nevis and Pep Levingston). Tigers arguably have the best secondary in the country and have the ability to lock-down WVU's pass-happy attack.
The Smoking Musket: Different? This is a complete overhaul of the offensive system of a year ago. WVU has gone from someone learning to be a OC with a mish-mash system to an established OC with an established, proven offensive system that moves the ball and puts points on the board. Holgorsen's system is one that, simply put, gets the ball in playmakers hands quickly and in a position to score on virtually every play.
HuffPost Sports: More important unit in this game: offense or defense?
Tiger Rag: Defense is more important for LSU. Always is. That's how they win games. On offense they need only to continue to do enough to win, mainly pounding out drives on the ground.
The Smoking Musket: More important to WVU is the offense, and that's based on the fact that LSU's defense may be the best defense in the country. They are fast and deep and LSU's offense is a pound the ball offense that WVU had trouble with in the second half last week against Maryland. The ability of WVU's offense to keep making plays, not turning the ball over and keeping LSU's offense off the field will be critical for WVU to have a chance to win this game.
HuffPost Sports: What player-player matchup or schematic tendency (on either side of the ball) do you think is likeliest to go in favor of your team?
Tiger Rag: Biggest advantage match-up for LSU is its offensive line against the three-man front of WVU. In the 3-3-5, the Mountaineers are a lot lighter up front than the bulky Tiger O-Line, which is frequently augmented by two-tight sets and a 280-pound fullback. The Tigers will run regularly.
The Smoking Musket: LSU has experienced DB's and WVU has fairly inexperienced, yet talented WR's going against them. But these receivers have had success and this is an LSU defense that has a bit of trouble defending the pass, despite their prospects to being NFL material. With WVU having a fair amount of trouble running the ball thus far this season, if the WR's have trouble making plays it will be a long game for the Mountaineers.
HuffPost Sports: And, against your team?
Tiger Rag: Biggest match-up advantage for WVU is any way it can get LSU's linebackers involved in run-stopping situations. The Tigers' LBs are the weak link of an otherwise top-flight defense.
The Smoking Musket: As mentioned before, as the last game wore on, the Mountaineer defense looked tired against Maryland as the game wore on. If WVU puts the defense in that position again in a tight game...LSU's ground game may wear them down.
HuffPost Sports: Knowing that a talented team will be losing tomorrow night, how high do you put the stakes in this one?
Tiger Rag: The stakes are pretty high, but the reality is the winner of the SEC has an unbelievably good chance of making the BCS Title Game. It's gone down that way the past five years. So LSU can sustain a loss and remain in the running.
The Smoking Musket: For WVU the stakes could not be higher...a win and they are likely thrust into the national spotlight as a top 10 team. Lose and possibly get lost in the shuffle. With all of the conference realignment talk that is prevalent, being a top 10 team may be essential for the future of WVU football.
HuffPost Sports: What is one underrated player or underreported (at least, nationally) storyline that has grabbed your attention during the early part of the season that the rest of us might have missed?
Tiger Rag: The most underrated and most improved player on LSU's team is first-year starting defensive tackle Bennie Logan. The redshirt sophomore has solidified a great D-Line, and his performance against Mississippi State was tremendous.
The Smoking Musket: Ivan McCartney, WR, is the player who seems to have adjusted to the new regime a bit later than some of the others, but with more talent and a new attitude...he can be the breakout WR that WVU needs to excel.