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If LSU coach Les Miles had his way, each 12-game season would include three open dates. Instead, he's got just one. He should be happy with that because three other SEC teams -- Alabama, Auburn and Vanderbilt -- don't have any true open dates this season.

Miles should also be happy that the open date comes this week because it gives the 14th-ranked Tigers (6-2) a chance to rest, get healthy and prepare for a Nov. 4 game at eighth-ranked Tennessee. After that, the Tigers still have Alabama, Ole Miss and Arkansas left on the schedule.

Getting healthy is a lot easier when banged-up players get a chance to just rest and get treatment for the better part of a week.

"One, there is about 10 to 12 guys with an old ankle (injury) or an old knee or an old 'something' that you want to get healed," Miles said. "You might want to give them some time off."

The open date also gives a team extra time to do some self-scouting, work on improving its own weaknesses and get a head start on the game plan for the next opponent.

In LSU's case, that means working on getting healthy in the offensive line and at tailback and finding ways to run the ball more effectively.

"You want also to evolve your strategy," Miles said. "You want to look at the things you are doing and how you can better attack opponents in the future."


SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Tigers got more production from their usual playmakers last week against Fresno State, with QB JaMarcus Russell and WRs Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis all playing well, but they also saw some positive signs from TB Alley Broussard. The Tigers continue to lead the SEC with 35.9 points and 414.8 yards per game, but they're still trying to elevate their running game as they head into the final stretch.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: While the offense has played its best games against lesser foes and subpar games against Auburn and Florida, the defense hasn't let up one bit this season. The Tigers continue to lead the nation in both scoring and total defense, allowing just 8.3 points and 211.3 yards per game. They also rank fourth against the pass and eighth against the run, allowing 139 passing yards and 72.6 rushing yards per game. The coaches would like to have more than 14 takeaways, but the Tigers still lead the SEC with 26 sacks, which helps them get off the field and give the ball back to the offense.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The one thing that is an overriding characteristic of our football team is they are physical, and physicality depicts the enthusiasm of play. This team plays hard. That's just how they do it." -- LSU coach Les Miles.


THIS WEEK'S GAME: This week gives LSU its one and only open date to get healthy, rested and prepared for a stretch run that includes a huge Nov. 4 game at Tennessee, followed by games against Alabama, Ole Miss and Arkansas.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB JaMarcus Russell -- Russell continued his trend of playing well against the lesser opponents on LSU's schedule, completing 15 of 19 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns. Now it's time for him to step up in a big game against a top-10 opponent after falling short against Auburn and Florida.

WR Dwayne Bowe -- With four receptions for 106 yards and a 58-yard touchdown reception, Bowe earned SEC offensive player of the week honors and tied for LSU's career receiving touchdown record with 21. He also became the sixth player in LSU history to amass at least 2,000 career receiving yards. Through eight games, Bowe is ninth in the SEC with 37 receptions and fourth with 77.5 receiving yards per game. More important, he leads the SEC with seven TD catches.

WR/RS Craig Davis -- With four receptions for 57 yards and a touchdown last week, Davis ranks fifth in the SEC with 41 receptions and sixth with 74.4 receiving yards per game. As if that weren't enough, he's added a new role the past two weeks as a punt returner. In his second game returning punts, he took one back 77 yards for a touchdown against Fresno State.

LB Darry Beckwith -- LSU has so many playmakers on defense that none of the starters rank among the SEC's top 10 in tackling, but Beckwith has been consistently solid, with 6.4 tackles per game and a career-high 11 tackles against Fresno State.

FS LaRon Landry -- Landry is generally regarded as the SEC's best free safety, but Tennessee's passing game will be one of the toughest tests he has faced in four years as a starter.

ROSTER REPORT: The open date should be enough to get starting center Brett Helms (unspecified injury), SS Jessie Daniels (knee) and backup cornerback Daniel Francis (knee) back on the field and ready for the Nov. 4 game at Tennessee.

OG Will Arnold (ankle) and TE Keith Zinger (stomach ailment) remain questionable for the Tennessee game.

Previous Report: 10/22/2006




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