BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -It wasn't just the non-conference pushovers LSU crushed during the first few weeks of the season.
Remember Mississippi State and Virginia Tech? They're both going to bowl games. The Hokies even made a late-season push into contention for the BCS title before ending up in the Orange Bowl.
Their results against the Tigers?
LSU 45, Mississippi State 0.
LSU 48, Virginia Tech 7.
As the season wore on, injuries to key players mounted and the gap between the Tigers and their opponents closed, especially during a string of matchups against other bowl-bound Southeastern Conference foes. There were narrow victories over Florida, Auburn and Alabama. There were triple-overtime losses to Kentucky and Arkansas. LSU also needed a second-half comeback in its 21-14 victory over Tennessee in the SEC championship game.
The Tigers (11-2) expect key players to be in much better shape by the time the BCS championship game against Ohio State (11-1) kicks off on Jan. 7.
``I know that the lineup shuffles a little bit that way at the end of the year where you've had to play week after week versus quality opponents and it takes its toll,'' LSU coach Les Miles said Monday, his team's first day at practice after a couple weeks off for final exams.
``There's no question that at some point in time, teams are more healthy and less healthy and it's a testimony to our football team that we win two games with our second-team quarterback. A number of times, our (starting) defensive line is on the sidelines watching and yet this football team finds a way to win,'' Miles said. ``We'll certainly enjoy the rest. We'll certainly improve our health. We're looking forward to returning to freshness, if you will.''
One of the most significant injuries involved All-American defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, who played the second half of the season with a sprained right knee. Dorsey was injured on an illegal chop-block against Auburn.
LSU was fortunate to have the next weekend off and Dorsey didn't miss a game, although he was not the same. His ability to explode into the backfield appeared diminished and his role appeared to shift to plugging holes in the line on running plays.
``Injuries do that,'' LSU defensive tackle Marlon Favorite said. ``I'm sure he wanted to rush and push to his full extent, but due to his injury he couldn't, so in his mind he was thinking, 'I have to do what I can.' He did that well.''
Dorsey finished as LSU's third-leading tackler with 64 stops, including six sacks and 11.5 tackles for losses. He won a trophy case-full of SEC and national awards.
Dorsey said LSU's defense is eager to send a message of how well it can play when key players are all fresh.
``We're real excited. Everybody started talking down on us when we started giving up points on defense,'' Dorsey said. ``We tried not to listen to that because, I mean, nobody knows what's going on in our locker room. So for us to have an opportunity to be healthy, we can come out and do what we're supposed to do and do what we know how to do.''
On offense, LSU's top wide receiver, Early Doucet, was sidelined for most of five games with a groin injury. Starting quarterback Matt Flynn missed an early season start with an ankle sprain and the SEC championship game with a shoulder injury.
Backup quarterback Ryan Perrilloux won both starts in Flynn's absence, but if Perrilloux plays against Ohio State, it will be more by design than necessity.
``A lot of our guys were nicked up. That's the fact of the matter and everyone knows that,'' said Favorite, who played through injuries to both ankles this season. ``You give us time to rest and get back on our feet? This is my first time ever dealing with injuries like this and I feel better already.''

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