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September 13, 2013Kent State's bringing in a modest 1-1 record with a season-opening win over Liberty.
Moreover, the Golden Flashes are members of the MAC and according to most observers are expected to be served up on a platter to No. 8 LSU this weekend.
But in the eyes of the beholder - in this case LSU - Kent State's holds a loftier standing in LSU's meeting rooms and practice field this week.
There's a genuine show of respect for the Flashes during preparation from Head Coach Les Miles on down to the last player allowed to dress when the Tigers (2-0) play their final non-conference game at 6 o'clock.
"The way we approach each week is that everybody is the No. 1 team in the country," LSU senior fullback J.C. Copeland said. "You can't overlook anybody because as you've seen over the years, when big teams overlook smaller team it can bit them in the butt. We try and beat them the best we can."
Coming from some teams the aforementioned rhetoric may ring hallow when you consider LSU opens Southeastern Conference play at home the following week with Auburn and visits Georgia the following week.
But at LSU it's more than lip service and is evident when you take into account the Tigers currently hold the nation's longest non-conference winning streak at 43 games - a stretch that began with a 26-8 loss to start the season at Virginia Tech on Sept. 1, 2002 under Nick Saban.
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"That's something that each player stresses that we're going to treat Teddy Bear Day Care as if it was Alabama," LSU junior defensive end Jermauria Rasco said. "We go into every game with the same mindset of trying to dominate whoever our next opponent is. We never want to overlook anyone because it's an upset alert. We go in with the same mindset each and every week that the players have to do what they have to do so we'll be dominant."
"Each week we look at our opponents as being nameless and faceless," LSU junior wide receiver Jarvis Landry said. "We're going to come with the same intensity as we did against TCU and UAB. That brings to life each phase of this team. The more intensity we can play with the more we can raise the bar."
Prior to LSU taking over the top spot in that category the top three non-conference winning streaks belonged to Kansas State (39), Miami (36) and Wisconsin (35).
LSU began work on this current stretch the following week after the loss to Virginia Tech with a 35-10 home win over The Citadel and hasn't stopped since.
Miles is credited with 33 of the 43 wins and is 33-0 all-time in non-conference regular season games during his nine-year tenure and held a distinct 1,310-361 advantage in points scored.
"It all comes down to respecting your opponent," Landry said. "You never want to go into a game thinking this is going to be a week to lay off. You do that and that's going to be a team that will smack you in the mouth. We carry on this name and brand. We're LSU and we come out to play every week, especially in our stadium. We never want to come out flat."
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Barrow said it didn't take long for him to differentiate between playing a high school schedule and graduating to the more rigorous road LSU took in and out of conference.
"I remember in high school when you played Higgins and you were so excited," Barrow said. "Then you turned around and maybe played a Grace King and you kind of knew that game's not going to be as hard. Around here it's college football. You never know what to expect. You never take anybody lightly."
There have been some memorable moments along the way toward keeping that streak intact.
LSU had to survive three missed field goals and rallied for a 22-21 in overtime to get past Oregon State in the 2004 season opener. A year later, in Miles' debut, the Tigers had to block a pair of punts for touchdowns and got a late scoring pass from Jamarcus Russell to Early Doucet to escape with a 35-31 victory at Arizona State to begin the 2005 season.
Three years later during a mid-November home contest LSU had to overcome a game Troy squad for a 40-31 verdict and having to hold off a late North Carolina charge for a 30-24 win a year later in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic in Atlanta.
There have also been resounding high points as well when LSU returned the favor to Virginia Tech and hammered the Hokies 48-7 in Tiger Stadium. The Tigers also ventured to Cowboys Stadium three years against a high-powered Oregon team and emerged with a dominating 40-27 triumph.
"I was part of probably the best team to ever come through LSU," Landry said of the 2011 team. "Those guys in leadership we had were tremendous. Some of them took me under their wing and showed me the pride and tradition of this school and what it means to wear these colors."
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