There are big upsets, and there are stunning triumphs by huge underdogs that shock the nation.
Last year, Kent State pulled off one of those big upsets with a 35-23 victory at Rutgers, which was unbeaten and ranked No 15 in the country at the time. That triumph made the nation take notice of the Golden Flashes, who wound up reeling off 10 straight wins en route to the Mid-American Conference East Division title and a school-record 11 victories.
Saturday night, Kent State will take a shot at a true stunner.
The Flashes (1-1) will visit Tiger Stadium to battle over 92,000 rabid fans and unbeaten LSU (2-0), which is currently ranked eighth in the country, but pointing toward No. 1 by the end of the season.
While knocking off a Big East power last year was extremely impressive, walking out of an elite SEC venue with a victory would send those shockwaves through the country that every five-touchdown underdog dreams about.
And yes, Kent State's players are daring to dream.
"I remember we had a speaker come in (before the Rutgers game) and talk to us and say why not us?" said Flashes senior center Phil Huff. "When we play bigger teams and we're the big underdog, I think why not us, why can't we win this game? Crazier stuff has happened."
It certainly has. Appalachian State's shocking upset win at No. 5 Michigan in 2007 comes to mind right away. That game was considered such a mismatch that Vegas didn't even produce a line. In comparison, Kent State is a mere 37-point underdog at LSU.
The Flashes were 14-point underdogs heading into the Rutgers game last year, but were able to handle the Scarlet Knights in the trenches on both sides of the ball. They also forced seven turnovers, including six interceptions, which repeatedly thwarted Rutgers' comeback hopes.
Things didn't go nearly as well in the second game of last season, when Kent State lost 47-14 at Kentucky as a six-point underdog. The Wildcats wound up winning just two games in 2013 and finishing last in the SEC's East Division.
"Last year against Rutgers we did the little things right. Last year against Kentucky we didn't do anything right," said KSU senior strong safety Luke Wollet. "You go in with the same mentality every week, you expect to win. We'll have a good gameplan, go (to LSU) and play our hardest. It comes down to executing, doing the little things right."
While preparing to play a team like the Tigers would seem like a monumental challenge for squads from lower-level conferences such as Kent State, Paul Haynes says the preparation aspect is relatively simple. And he should know, as the Flashes' first-year head coach faced LSU as a defensive assistant coach at both Ohio State and Arkansas.
"I've went against these guys a couple times, and the one thing that you'll notice is that they're not real flashy," said Haynes, whose Razorbacks lost to the Tigers 20-13 last season. "They're not gonna line up in a bunch of difference formations and try to trick you, they're just gonna line up and try to pound you and wear you down. You're gonna know exactly what they're gonna come out in and exactly what they're gonna do. Stop them. That's their mentality.
"So as far as game-planning against teams like this, there aren't a whole lot of formations and things you've gotta sit there and prepare for. It's more mental preparation than anything, getting prepared for the environment, getting prepared to just sit there and fight for 60 minutes, 'cause that's exactly what it's going to be."
So to have a shot at the upset, the Flashes must hold their own physically in the trenches against a nasty Tigers squad that thrives on intimidation.
That certainly won't be easy on offense, with as many as four raw underclassmen starting on the offensive line on either side of Huff battling an LSU defense that is also young (only 3 returning starters), but extremely talented as always.
"Defensively they're very sound," said Haynes. "They mix it up to try to put you in bad situations and get you behind the sticks. When those guys up front can pin their ears back in third-and-long it's tough. They always have a very good front and they rely a lot on their front to take up blockers and let their athletic linebackers run and make a bunch of plays. They will line up in man free, will sit there and lock (your receivers) down at times and blitz. It's gonna be a big challenge for our offense to make sure we execute and do things well."
It won't be a picnic for Kent State's defense either, facing a dangerous LSU offense led by red-hot senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger (32-of-51, 533 yards, 6 TDs, 0 INTs) and speedy wideout Odell Beckham Jr. (10 catches, 254 yards, 3 TDs) one week after the Flashes coughed up 576 yards to Bowling Green.
"(Mettenberger) is playing well for them right now, and I think he's the key," said Haynes. "After last season, I don't know how comfortable they were with him to sit there and be a top-10 program, but he's playing awesome now. Their running backs are big and they run physical, so our guys are gonna have to do a good job of tackling and wrapping up. Their wide receivers are very, very talented. (Beckham) is super, super fast. It's gonna be a challenge for us on the back end, too. They'll pound it and pound it, then take their shots."
Obviously, there's a reason the Flashes are a huge underdog. On paper, they simply can't match up with the Tigers man for man, especially with star senior speedster Dri Archer's availability uncertain due to a nagging ankle injury. But when the lights go on and a bunch of 18- to 22-year-old young men play a game of football, crazy things can happen -- and Kent State is hoping to make a bunch of them transpire Saturday night in Baton Rouge.
"LSU is a huge challenge but a great challenge," said Haynes. "Any time you can play against an SEC opponent and a top program like LSU it's a big deal for us. Our guys are looking forward to it."
Facebook: Allen Moff, Record-Courier