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LSU's Aaron Nola. (Associated Press)

LSU's Aaron Nola. (Associated Press)

Tigers open SEC play today at Mississippi State

Last Modified: Thursday, March 14, 2013 7:02 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

Lest he get too smug about his LSU team’s 16-1 start heading into Southeastern Conference play, all Paul Mainieri has to do is glance at the league standings.

The Tigers, riding an 11-game winning streak, open tonight against Mississippi State — which is 18-2. Ole Miss is 18-1. Three teams in the Eastern Division also have just two losses.

“You can never feel good enough about your own team that you think you are going to go dominate the SEC,” Mainieri said. “It just doesn’t work that way. I’ve never approached it that way

“I just want us to be the best team we can possibly be. We know we’ll be going up against teams that will be equally talented, with great coaches, great facilities, great tradition and history.

“Every time we play in the SEC, it’s going to be two of the best teams in the country.”

It will be a step up in competition for both as neither has played a ranked team while running roughshod through the pre-conference schedule.

It will also be the Tigers’ first weekend road series. Except for a day trip over and back to UL-Lafayette, all of LSU’s games have been at home.

Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. game will be televised by Cox Sports.

While Starkville doesn’t deter visitors with many distractions, Dudy Noble Field has never been an easy place for opponents.

“But our players are excited and ready to go to Starkville,” Mainieri said. “I think we’ll embrace the opportunity to compete.”

LSU will open with right-hander Aaron Nola against Mississippi State’s Evan Mitchell.

The Tigers took two of three in the regular season against the Bulldogs last season, but Mississippi State came back to hand LSU both of its losses in the SEC tournament.

Mississippi State currently leads the SEC in hitting (.324), but by only a hair over second best LSU at .321.

“No matter how good we feel about ourselves. It doesn’t assure victory in any SEC game, Mainieri said. “We’re going to have to go out and play at our best 30 different times. If not, you’re going to lose.”

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