LSU didn’t begin the game against Northwestern State last Saturday with the type of focus and intensity that is expected from the No. 4 team in the country.

The Tigers played an uneven first half and led the FCS Demons just 24-14 at halftime.

They turned it on to start the second half and never let up, outscoring NSU 41-0 after halftime to finish with a 65-14 cakewalk.

But, coach Ed Orgeron said, he wants to see his team play up to its lofty standard for 60 minutes regardless of the opponent.

“We cannot do the things we did against Northwestern State in the first half and get to where we want to go,” Orgeron said. “We have to improve.”

It’s going to be awhile before LSU faces an opponent that offers a serious threat of defeating the Tigers.

LSU begins SEC play Saturday at Vanderbilt, which is 0-2. Though the Commodores haven’t been humiliated in either game – losing at home to Georgia (30-6) to start the season and at Purdue (42-24) before last week’s open date – there is no evidence that they are appreciably better than the Vanderbilt teams that have finished 6th in the SEC East each of the past 3 seasons.

The Tigers get the first of their 2 open dates after the Vanderbilt game. Then they host Utah State in their final nonconference game.

Even their next SEC game – at home against Florida on Oct. 12 – doesn’t seem quite as challenging after the injury to Feleipe Franks, though the Gators still figure to be easily the biggest challenge of the first half of the season – along with the 45-38 victory against then-No. 9 Texas 2 weeks ago.

So Orgeron hopes the Tigers spend the next few weeks looking into the mirror more than they look at the schedule. The challenge to improve internally should provide any motivation that a particular opponent doesn’t.

“When you really look at your roster, you’re really looking at evaluating your personnel, you’re really saying, ‘hey, what can we do here? What can we do there? What can we do to get better?’” Orgeron said. “Keep pressing on to get better and better and better so we can make improvement throughout the year.”

After the game against Florida, LSU visits Mississippi State and hosts Auburn before taking its second open date.

Then come trips to Alabama and Ole Miss before finishing with home games against Arkansas and Texas A&M.

The SEC has 6 teams ranked in the top 17 in the AP poll. LSU plays four of them and all of those games come in the final 7 games, starting with Florida.

The Tigers have to be much better team than they are right now if they’re going to win all or even most of those games. That means taking advantage of all 60 minutes of each contest by playing their best throughout, unlike they did against NSU.

“I know a good football team improves every week, and we’ve got to take the next step this week to get to where we want to go,” Orgeron said. “Obviously, we know there will be some very strong opponents coming down the road, and we may run into one at Vanderbilt. We ran into one at Northwestern State the first half.”

If LSU takes the same approach for 60 minutes against Vanderbilt and others that it took for the final 30 minutes against NSU, it will be building toward where it needs to get in October and November.