BATON ROUGE, La. -- Louisiana Tech coach Derek Dooley wasn't surprised LSU maintained its No. 9 ranking after losing at Alabama last weekend.
Dooley saw no reason voters should punish the Tigers for having only close losses to No. 1 Florida and the third-ranked Crimson Tide.
"I kind of see it the other way," Dooley said. "If you lost to the best team in the country, who's to say you're not No. 2. I would have moved them up when I watched them against Alabama. They've taken the two best teams in the country to the fourth quarter."
It may be debatable whether Florida and Alabama are indeed the two best teams in the country, given that second-ranked Texas also has yet to lose. Those arguments are irrelevant at this point to Dooley, whose main concern is the enormous challenge he sees for Louisiana Tech (3-6) against LSU (7-2) in Death Valley on Saturday night.
Tech doesn't have much of a winning history against Louisiana's most storied college football program. LSU is 17-1 all time against the Bulldogs since the teams first met in 1901. Tech's only win came by a 6-0 count back in 1904.
"We need to get the awe factor out when we kick off," Dooley said. "The good news is we've played in (a big game) environment before ... and I thought we played well. We just didn't make the plays at the end of the game to finish, so hopefully we can build on that."
A little more than a week ago, Tech hosted then-No. 5 Boise State on national television and was as close as 30-28 in the fourth quarter before the Broncos pulled away to win 45-35. The closer-than-expected result hurt Boise State in the polls as the Broncos dropped to No. 6.
Now the Bulldogs play a second straight Top 10 opponent.
Tech has been decimated by injuries and is in the midst of a three-game losing streak, but LSU coach Les Miles doesn't see evidence the Bulldogs have quit.
"This Louisiana Tech team's record is not as good as they would like, but I can tell you that they play better and better," Miles said.
Although LSU's loss at Tuscaloosa dropped the Tigers out of contention for a Southeastern Conference title, a New Year's Day bowl bid remains in reach with victories against Tech, Mississippi and Arkansas.
"If we take care of business and win the next three games ... I still like that opportunity," Miles said.
With quarterback Jordan Jefferson nursing a right ankle injury, Jarrett Lee could get his first start of the season for LSU. With leading rusher Charles Scott out for the remainder of the regular season with a broken collarbone, Miles said he'll likely spread carries among Keiland Williams, Stevan Ridley, Trindon Holliday and Russell Shepard. Ridley, a sophomore who only recently came back from a serious knee injury last spring, and Shepard, a freshman, both have played well recently.
Shepard had touchdowns against Auburn and Tulane, while Ridley scored against Tulane and Alabama.
When LSU's offense is on the field, another subplot will feature a battle of brothers taking place between Tigers right guard Lyle Hitt and Tech defensive tackle Mason Hitt.
When the Bulldogs get the ball, they'll try to keep pace with an offense led by quarterback Ross Jenkins, running back Daniel Porter and tight end Dennis Morris. Porter has rushed for 732 yards this season and needs only needs 48 yards to become the third Louisiana Tech running back to reach 3,000 yards rushing for his career. Morris has seven touchdowns, the latest being an extraordinary catch off the back of a Boise State cornerback that made highlight reels across the country.
Although the Bulldogs won't be going to a bowl this season, pulling out an unlikely upset at LSU (the Tigers are three-plus TD favorites) would go down as one of top moments in Tech football history.
"LSU is the flagship football program ... so you want to go down there and compete," Dooley said. "We expect to go down there and compete."