Examining LSU’s Historic Non-Conference Streak

On September 7, 2002, LSU defeated The Citadel 35-10 in Tiger Stadium.

That game may sound like nothing more than boring, lower-level schedule filler at first, but the victory was the first of 46 in a row (and counting) against non-conference opponents in regular season games (a number they reached in spectacular fashion just a few days ago against Wisconsin) for the Tigers.

Just about twelve years later, on September 6, 2014, the Tigers will attempt to extend that growing streak (a Football Bowl Subdivision record, by the way) to 47 when they take on Sam Houston State in Death Valley.

Of course, that record may sound a bit inflated with opponents like the Citadel and Sam Houston State finding their way onto LSU’s schedule, but the truth is reaching this unprecedented mark hasn’t been very easy.

In fact, during this long winning streak, LSU has played 13 games against power conference (Big XII, Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12) opponents, which averages out to one per season.

Of these thirteen games, a staggering eight were played away from Tiger Stadium, and there were plenty of tight games along the way.

One very memorable matchup came in the debut game for Les Miles (whose Tigers are a perfect 35-0 during the current 46 game non-conference winning streak).

Many fans remember officials relocating the site of LSU’s much anticipated 2005 matchup against #15 Arizona State from Baton Rouge to Tempe, AZ in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

A frazzled Tigers squad overcame a sluggish start and a hostile crowd in a “home game” outside of the friendly confines of Death Valley to defeat the Sun Devils 35-31 on the strength of a couple of blocked kicks returned for touchdowns and a game-winning strike from JaMarcus Russell to Early Doucet on fourth down.

Even home games against mid-major opponents brought fans the occasional nail-biter.

Easily the most memorable of these examples was LSU’s gigantic second half comeback against Troy in 2008.

Fans streamed out of a cold and windy Tiger Stadium just after halftime when the Trojans took a shocking 31-3 lead.

The few frigid faithful fans who remained were eventually treated to an historic comeback in which the Tigers’ scored 30 points in the fourth quarter to win 40-31.

Despite all the nail-biters and heart attacks, LSU has rolled over some quality opponents at times as well.

Perhaps the two most unforgettable examples both came in years when the Tigers made it to New Orleans for the BCS National Championship Game.

Early in the 2007 season, ESPN College Gameday descended on Baton Rouge for a huge Top 10 non-conference clash between the #2 Tigers and the #9 Hokies of Virginia Tech.

From start to finish, LSU left no doubt about their standing in the national college football landscape in a tremendous victory that certainly came in a handy a few months down the line when BCS voters looked to place two teams in the championship game.

Four years later, this time at a neutral site, the Tigers made a similar statement in front of a national television audience (and on a 60-yard video screen!) when an emerging star named Tyrann Mathieu and his teammates pantsed 3rd-ranked Oregon in a 40-27 drubbing.

The 2014 Tigers are off to a good start, taking care of their toughest non-conference opponent with a late comeback against a quality but undermanned Wisconsin team last weekend.

With only Sam Houston State, Louisiana-Monroe and New Mexico State remaining on the non-conference slate, it’s unlikely the historic winning streak will end this year.

With strength of schedule playing a significant role in the new College Football Playoff equation, don’t look for LSU’s schedule quality to decrease.

Some intriguing interconference opponents to look for (tentatively) in the future include at Syracuse in 2015, vs. Wisconsin at Lambeau Field in Green Bay in 2016, at UCLA in 2021 and at Arizona State in 2022.

Will the streak still be alive? OK, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Only time will tell.

About Jacob Mayer

Jacob is an LSU alum and a former member of the Golden Band from Tigerland.