BATON ROUGE -- Twice in LSU's 41-14 season-opening win over North Texas, Tigers pre-season all-American safety Eric Reid blew coverages resulting in both Mean Green touchdowns.
He wasn't alone.
LSU had at least seven plays where sloppy execution cost the Tigers. There was a punt return for a touchdown by Odell Beckham Jr. called back by penalty and another long return called back. There were's Reid's mistakes, both on third-and-longs. There was Drew Alleman missing what was, for him, a chip-shot 34-yard field goal. There was talented young Zach Mettenberger not seeing the blitz coming and taking a hard shot on a sack then, throwing a red zone interception later. There was a Mettenberger touchdown pass called back by penalty.
Take it all into account, and it was clear that LSU was not on all cylinders against the Mean Green.
That's not unusual. LSU struggled to a 14-7 halftime lead against Western Kentucky last season before rallying to blow out the Hilltoppers, 42-9. The Tigers to a 24-16 win over Louisiana Tech in 2009 and had to battle into the fourth quarter to subdue McNeese State, 32-10 in 2010.
The point is this: Under Les Miles, LSU isn't always pretty but usually plays better against better opponents. And that's what LSU is hoping for today with 1-0 Washington in town.
"We will have to play well," Miles said. "This is a great week for us to improve."
Three things to watch:
1. Replacing the big men: Both teams are dealing with offensive line issues. Washington lost right tackle Ben Riva to a broken arm in last week's 21-12 win over San Diego State. LSU lost arguably its best offensive offensive lineman, left tackle Chris Faulk at practice this week. How both teams replace their injured players and how well the new starters mesh with their respective lines will be a big part of Saturday's story.
2. Price is right? Keith Price will likely the the most prolific passer LSU sees until Arkansas' Tyler Wilson in the season finale. Will Price and his receivers be able to pick apart the post-Tyrann Mathieu LSU secondary?
3. Miles from the SEC: No non-conference opponent has beaten a Les Miles-coached LSU team during the regular season. UW, LSU's only non-conference opponent from a BCS automatic qualifier conference, seems to be the team with the best chance of changing that this season.
Tigers to watch
1. OG La'El Collins: Whether he stays at left guard or slides over the left tackle, Collins will become a more important piece on the Tigers' offensive line with the injury to Faulk.
2. Mettenberger: He completed 19 of 26 passes for 192 yards with a touchdown and an interception, but already there is grumbling among fans that the approach with Mettenberger was too conservative. Look for UW to be more aggressive than North Texas was, meaning the Tigers junior will have a chance to show his stuff.
3. CB Jalen Mills: Washington can spread the field with capable receivers, so look for the Huskies to try to get the Tigers' true freshman caught in one-on-one battles with the likes of UW's talented Kasen Williams.
Huskies to watch
1. Price: A 3,000-yard passer last season, Price may have to put the Huskies on his back this week. With RB Jesse Callier out for the season with a knee injury. Washington might look to the air even more.
2. TE Austin Sefereian-Jenkins: A matchup nightmare for opponents, the 6-foot-6, 266-pound Seferian-Jenkins is Price's favorite target. He caught nine passes last week against SDSU. With UW perhaps looking to offset LSU's fierce pass rush, short, safe passes to the big tight end might be a big part of the equation.
3. CB Desmond Trufant: UW might need to try to stop the run by putting a lot of players in the box and playing man-to-man outside. Trufant, one of the nation's better cover corners, will allow the Huskies that luxury.
Seferian-Jenkins vs. Reid: Seferian-Jenkins is a load to cover at tight end and some of that man-to-man coverage will fall on Reid, LSU's preseason all-American free safety who will give up four inches in height and nearly 60 pounds in the matchup.
By the Numbers
28-0: Les Miles vs. non-conference, regular-season competition.
38: LSU's consecutive game win streak against non-conference regular-season opponents, one away from the FBS record.
18: LSU's winning streak at home, one away from the Tiger Stadium record.
316/199: LSU's rush total against North Texas/Rush yards allowed by UW against San Diego State.