BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU's path to a potential College Football Playoff berth got rockier on Saturday night.
The Tigers' game against McNeese State was canceled late Saturday night after a four-hour weather delay that started early in the first quarter. LSU now enters a crucial stretch of its schedule -- visiting Mississippi State next Saturday night and hosting Auburn the following weekend -- having played all of eight plays.
"Our preparation will have to be a little bit better, we'll have to make sure we give a view of a road game to some of our young players to be in position to excel," LSU coach Les Miles said of the disadvantage the cancellation created. "But we talked about that and either way, play or not, we'll be prepared to play next week."
It's anybody's guess how Saturday's cancellation might affect Miles' Tigers down the road. They'll still need six wins in the remaining 11 games to achieve bowl eligibility, but assuming that LSU plays well enough to remain in the playoff conversation in December, could winning one fewer game damage the Tigers' playoff chances?
Miles wasn't ready to hazard a guess.
"It just really depends on what you get accomplished. ... If you're the best 11-win team at the time and there's the best 12-win teams, it will be interesting to see how that might play," Miles said.
LSU and McNeese State had played just less than five minutes and neither team had scored when lightning struck near Tiger Stadium, halting play at 6:50 p.m. CT. A band of storms moved through the area over the next four hours before LSU finally called the game just after 10:30 p.m.
Saturday's game will not be rescheduled as the two teams do not have a common open date, but McNeese State will still receive its full $500,000 guarantee from LSU. The school has not yet determined how it will reimburse fans for ticket purchases to the canceled game.
LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said moving the game to Sunday was not feasible for a variety of logistical reasons, citing travel issues for McNeese and the need for the stadium to be cleaned completely overnight.
"Tomorrow is really not an option," Alleva said. "McNeese had to go home. They didn't have a hotel. They would have had to go home and come back. We just felt like it was not an option to play tomorrow. It would be logistically, very, not difficult, but almost impossible for our staff to get the stadium ready to play."
Representatives of both programs waited well into the evening before finally calling the game, deciding that playing well after midnight would be a risky move from a player safety perspective.
"How can you ask a college-aged player to do something that I as a coach have never coached in a game that started that late and played till possibly 2:30, 3 o'clock in the morning?" Miles asked.
To LSU officials' knowledge, the school had never had a game canceled in the modern era of Tigers football. They have postponed games after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, but those games were eventually played.
Not this time. Instead, Miles' coaching staff will be flying blind to a degree as they scramble to prepare for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs rolled up 570 yards of total offense in a 34-29 win over LSU last season.
Getting those first-game reps would certainly have impacted how the Tigers plan for the rematch, but Miles expressed confidence that his coaches and players will be able to cope.
"What you're saying is this guy did that well and this guy did that well and you want to call those plays again because this guy is lightning on the perimeter," Miles said. "Sadly we don't have that experience, but minus that, we have a suspicion who's really capable.
"There's no substitution for game reps, but in this particular instance, we're going to have to prepare in a game-like situation. We'll give thought to that. That'll not hinder us."