On Saturday, LSU hosts Western Kentucky looking to extend its ongoing NCAA-record winning streak in non-conference games. The Tigers have won their past 52 regular-season games against non-SEC opponents. This streak started on Sept. 7, 2002 when Nick Saban was still the head coach in Baton Rouge.
The last non-conference opponent to beat LSU in the regular season was Virginia Tech when the Hokies won 26-8 in Blacksburg, Va. Since then, the Tigers have reeled off 52 straight victories under these circumstances, 42 of those coming in Tiger Stadium, six in true road game situations and four at neutral sites. The roll call of teams felled during this streak include representatives from the other four Power 5 conferences — ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 — despite the litany of realignment that has taken place this run began more than 13 years ago.
Here are LSU’s top 10 victories ranked in significance during this record-setting run in regular season, non-conference games.
10. 31-23 at Washington on Sept. 5, 2009
At first glance, an eight-point win over a team that finished 5-7 does not deserve any notability. However, the Huskies defeated USC on the same field just two weeks later. That delighted LSU fans who were still dissatisfied about the outcome of the 2003 season.
9. 30-24 vs. North Carolina (Atlanta) on Sept. 4, 2010
LSU led 7-0 after the first quarter. North Carolina answered with 10 straight points early in the second quarter to grab the lead. It only lasted 18 seconds, as the Tigers erupted for 23 points before halftime. UNC put two touchdowns on the board in the fourth quarter and nearly scored another on the final play.
8. 40-31 vs. Troy on Nov. 15, 2008
A victory over the eventual Sun Belt champion is not normally a phenomenal accomplishment. However, this game featured the largest deficit overcome in LSU's history. After falling behind 31-3 with 11:13 left in the third quarter, the Tigers scored 37 unanswered points. The comeback prevented further misery the week after a heartbreaking loss in overtime to Alabama.
7. 22-21 OT vs. Oregon State on Sept. 4, 2004
In LSU's first game following its 2003 national championship run, Oregon State nearly ruined the party. The only aspect of this game sloppier than the condition of the field due to a pre-game downpour was the placekicking for both teams. LSU missed field goals from 41 and 42 yards; Oregon State misfired on all three of its extra point attempts. Despite those, the Beavers led 9-0 at halftime. The Tigers needed a touchdown and two-point conversion with 1:05 left in regulation to force overtime. Each team scored a touchdown in OT but the missed extra point gave LSU the victory.
6. 35-31 at Arizona State on Sept. 10, 2005
This win's significance lies not in that Arizona State accomplished much that season. The Sun Devils only finished 7-5. What was supposed to be LSU's second game of the season in Tiger Stadium turned into its season opener on the road. Hurricane Katrina caused the postponement of the scheduled opener and the relocation of this game to Sun Devil Stadium. Early in the fourth quarter, with the Sun Devils leading 17-7, the Tigers' special teams blocked a field goal then returned it for a touchdown. On ASU's next possession, LSU blocked a punt then returned that for a touchdown. Despite the special teams' huge contributions, LSU still needed JaMarcus Russell's touchdown pass to Early Doucet on fourth down with less than a minute and a half to pull out the game. Additionally, Les Miles won his first game as LSU's head coach.
5. 20-14 vs. West Virginia on Sept. 25, 2010
In a tight contest, the Tigers only managed 230 yards and 13 points on offense versus the eventual Big East co-champions. Patrick Peterson's 60-yard punt return in the second quarter provided the difference.
4. 28-24 vs. Wisconsin (Houston) on Aug. 30, 2014
After trailing 24-7 midway through the third quarter, LSU kicked two field goals before scoring two touchdowns in the final 15 minutes. Those led to the triumph over a Wisconsin team that would win 11 games and the Big Ten West Division title that season.
3. 48-7 vs. Virginia Tech on Sept. 8, 2007
This match featured two top-10-ranked teams. It quickly turned into a rout of the eventual ACC champions. The Tigers held a 27-0 stranglehold when the Hokies managed to score their only points of the night late in the third quarter.
2. 47-21 at West Virginia on Sept. 24, 2011
LSU jumped out to leads of 13-0 and 27-7 at the end of the first and second quarters respectively. Right after West Virginia scored its second touchdown of the third quarter to cut the Tigers' lead to six, Corey Smith returned the kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. That squashed any hope of victory for the home Mountaineers. LSU poured on two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter. West Virginia recovered from this drubbing to finish 10-3, share the Big East championship and win the Orange Bowl.
1. 40-27 vs. Oregon (Arlington) on Sept. 3, 2011
The Tigers started 2011 in the same place where they finished the 2010 season – inside Jerry World. In the first half, neither team held a lead greater than four points. In the third quarter, LSU scored two touchdowns while keeping Oregon off the scoreboard to pull away with the victory. The Ducks only lost once more en route to the Pac-12 championship and a victory in the Rose Bowl.
— Written by John La Fleur, a contributor to AthlonSports.com, who focuses on the New Orleans Saints and Michigan State Spartans. He also frequently comments on other teams in the NFL and in NCAA football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur.