73F Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, LA
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- Without quite saying it, Les Miles all but acknowledged there are times when looking beyond the next opponent can be helpful.
A prime example comes this Saturday night, when No. 3 LSU (4-0) hosts Towson (2-1) of the FCS.
Miles wants his players to consider how well they will have to play to survive a brutal stretch of their Southeastern Conference schedule that comes after this weekend. That way, they'll see their matchup with seemingly overmatched Towson as their last chance to eliminate the sloppiness that caused them to drop a spot in the AP Poll a week earlier.
"The good news is that our team understands the position they're in. If they want to win a division or a conference, they're going to have to fix their mistakes," said Miles, whose team visits unbeaten Florida on Oct. 6 and returns home against No. 6 South Carolina on Oct. 13.
Everything from fumbles to missed field goals to penalties caused LSU more stress than expected in a tense 12-10 victory at heavy underdog Auburn last weekend.
"We have to handle our opponent much more efficiently so we don't make mistakes and we're not sloppy," Miles said. "Some guys that don't understand the position we're in, and the recognition of what makes a very, very well-played ball game as opposed to that game that's sloppy and gives your opponent every opportunity at staying in that game.
"We have some things to fix, and we're looking forward to it."
If Towson coach Rob Ambrose saw evidence last weekend of weaknesses his team - also called the Tigers - could exploit in Death Valley, he wasn't discussing it. Rather, what stood out to him is the abundance of talent on LSU's roster and how well it played in its first three victories, all blowouts of North Texas, Washington and Idaho.
"I've been looking for any holes I can find. I can't find any," Ambrose said. "This is the most athletically talented, technically sound football team I've ever seen on film. ... Obviously, this is going to be quite a challenge for us."
Towson officials are billing this weekend's contest as "the biggest challenge in the 44-year history" of the football program.
Towson has played only five FBS teams before - Navy, Northwestern, Indiana, Maryland and Kent State - and has not beaten any of them. Towson has never played a ranked FBS team and has never played in a venue as large as 92,000-seat Tiger Stadium.
"We're really talking about the adjustments in the atmosphere, the difference in the decibel level and how to not be wowed," Ambrose said. "It's like going to Cooperstown. It's amazing, so the kids will have great respect for that, but it's still football."
Towson has its own record of success, if on a different level. The program has produced successful pros, including New Orleans Saints left tackle Jermon Bushrod. Towson is ranked 12th nationally in the FCS and has more than a dozen transfers on its roster from FBS programs.
Still, history is not on Towson's side.
LSU, which has outscored this season's first four opponents 157-41, has won an FBS-record 40 straight non-conference games during the regular season and has won a school-record 20 straight at home.
So if Towson is to pull of what would be a stunning upset, it will likely need its best players to have big games.
Towson is led on offense by sophomore running back Terrance West, who has rushed for 1,545 yards and has scored 34 rushing touchdowns in his young career. Senior quarterback Grant Enders is an efficient passer with a completion rate of 75 percent this season.
Towson's defense is allowing only 253 yards per game. But it will be tested by an LSU running game, led by Kenny Hilliard, Spencer Ware and Michael Ford, which averages nearly 248 yards.
LSU's passing game has been inconsistent under first-year starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who is averaging 194.5 yards, has been intercepted twice and fumbled twice last weekend at Auburn.
The consensus at LSU is that Mettenberger's throwing ability is exceptional, but his decision-making still needs work and receivers need to help out by dropping fewer balls.
Receiver Jarvis Landry said the goal this week is to "get Zach a rhythm coming into this hard, tough SEC stretch ... making him feel comfortable with us, making the coaching staff feel comfortable with us, so if the run does fail, then we can beat teams through the air."