MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- There are exceptions, especially when your talent simply overwhelms the opponent's, but for the most part college football played at the highest level is a fairly evenly matched competition.
West Virginia and Louisiana State will engage in one of those top-shelf occasions Saturday night. Both are 3-0. The Mountaineers are No. 22 in the Associated Press Poll. The Tigers are No. 15. So smitten were the networks with a chance to put one the SEC's best up against the Big East's best at beating the SEC that ESPN2 asked for 9 p.m. kickoff in Baton Rouge's aptly named Death Valley.
This won't be much different from many of WVU's other dalliances outside its own conference. In truth, the teams aren't that much different.
Both have coaches who, if you didn't know any better, have the unusual link of having the same unusual first name: Embattled.
Both teams have offensive coordinators who have compelled fans to light up switchboards on inane talk shows.
Both have defensive coordinators whose third-down philosophies once drove fans crazy, but have now seen heartbeats settle.
LSU's John Chavis was derisively deemed "Third-and-Chavis" when he was at Tennessee, but has the Tigers stopping 69 percent of third downs this season.
Jeff Casteel has actually been better with his Mountaineers stopping 78 percent and further forwarding the idea he isn't at all underrated at what he does, but is instead very good.
WVU is No. 5 nationally in third-down defense today, 80 spots above where it finished four years ago, 76 better than where it was in 2008 and just 11 above the final standing last season.
On and on it goes. LSU is outscoring opponents 86-34. WVU leads 86-38. WVU receivers get 10.8 yards per catch, LSU's 10.6.
Arguably the most valuable players on defense, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson and WVU linebacker J.T. Thomas, went to Blanche Ely High in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Their defenses both allow 2.2 yards per rush. WVU surrenders 4.6 yards per snap, LSU 4.4
In short, the teams are long on similarities. When those are coupled with the dynamics created when the strengths of the offenses are pitted against the strengths of the defenses, it projects a close and competitive game.
Granted, things can get out of hand in a hurry. Witness WVU's loss at Auburn last season. Or Maryland's stumble early Saturday.
Crowds and environments can be a factor and the Mountaineers struggled with the 41,328 packed inside Marshall's stadium two Fridays ago.
They can expect more than double that on a Saturday night at LSU, occasions on which opponents are 1-25 since 2005.