Les Miles has spent the better part of a week berating himself publicly for LSU's upset loss at Mississippi, which all but eliminated the 13th-ranked Tigers from national title contention.
"There's a number of reasons why we don't win that game, but in my opinion, it's me," Miles said this week. "I need to teach better. I challenge myself that way."
Miles' self-improvement undertaking began as his team prepared to play football again on Saturday against seemingly overmatched Furman of the second-tier Football Championship Subdivision. The game will mark the last of nine straight weeks without a break for LSU (6-2), which wants to go into its first bye week of the season on a high note.
"We need to bounce back. We just want to get a 'W' this week and go uphill from here," LSU receiver Jarvis Landry said.
There are a couple of contests against Southeastern Conference heavy-weights left on the schedule for the Tigers — namely, at Alabama on Nov. 9 and at home against Texas A&M on Nov. 23 — and LSU can go a long way toward keeping alive hope of a BCS bowl bid by winning those.
"It is known we still have important games to play," Landry said. "We still want to play those guys on our schedule. We will still be excited to play those guys although the games may not be a hyped matchup with the rankings."
But first comes a homecoming date with the Paladins (3-4) that is conspicuously devoid of the hype typically devoted to midseason games in Death Valley.
The Paladins boast the oldest college football program in South Carolina and have a winning tradition in at the FCS level, but have lost 20 of their last 21 games against Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
Furman has been inconsistent early this season as injuries have led coach Bruce Fowler to use five players at quarterback. But No.1 signal-caller Reese Hannon returned last week for a victory over Appalachian State. Now the Paladins aim to mount a respectable challenge in Tiger Stadium — and stay healthy — before entering the stretch run of their Southern Conference schedule.
"This is both a tremendous challenge and opportunity for our football team to play LSU in Tiger Stadium," Fowler said. "They are a very talented team as everyone knows, and we certainly hope we can step up our game."
Here are five things to know about Furman-LSU:
YOUTH MOVEMENT: Before LSU moves back into a tougher part of its schedule, Miles aims to provide more playing time for younger players who've shown potential to help the Tigers sooner than later. The coach has named dual-threat backup quarterback Anthony Jennings; linebackers Kendell Beckwith and Lamar Louis; defensive back Rashard Robinson; and offensive lineman Josh Boutte as examples of players who could see more action.
QB ROTATION: Injuries aren't the only reason five players have taken snaps for Furman. Sometimes the Paladins have just looked to mix up their attack. True freshman Richard Hayes III, a former defensive back, has been inserted behind center during the past couple games to provide more of a running threat.
BOUNCING BACK: LSU has been almost unbeatable coming off of a loss since Miles took over as head coach in 2005. The Tigers are 21-1 following defeats. "We have to bring some intensity back," defensive tackle Ego Ferguson. "Our goal is to win out." LSU also holds the nation's longest regular season winning streak against non-conference opponents at 44 straight.
EARLY ADVANTAGE: If the Paladins are forced to punt a lot, the good news is they've been strong in that area. Ryan Early ranks fourth in FCS in punting with a 44.1-yard average. Early also routinely sends kickoffs through the end zone and has converted seven of his last eight field goal tries, including a pair of 50-yarders.
AIR ASSAULT: Despite three interceptions last week, LSU QB Zach Mettenberger remains on pace to become the first player in school history to throw for 2,500 yards or more in back-to-back seasons. He has passed for 2,164 yards and 16 TDs this season.