Breaking down the biggest SEC game of the week, position by position.
Head to Head:
Tennessee QB vs. LSU
Erik Ainge vs. Chase Pittman
coach Phil Fulmer should take a lesson from Nick Saban a year ago and
State coach Jim Tressel last week
versus Texas, a two-quarterback
system doesn't work. But Fulmer played both Erik Ainge and Rick Clausen against
Florida and lost. While Clausen's
numbers are better, look for Ainge to start versus LSU this weekend. Against
State, LSU failed to sack the
quarterback. Granted the Sun Devils Sam Keller camped out in a three-step drop
shotgun formation, the likes of Chase Pittman and the rest of the Tiger defense
is going to have to get some pressure on
DT vs. LSU C
Jesse Mahelona vs. Rudy Niswanger
Saturday's game could match up the
two best defensive line units in the nation. Everyone knows about LSU's vaunted
defensive tackle tandem in Claude Wroten and Kyle Williams. The Volunteers' duo
of all-American Jesse Mahelona and Parys Haralson are equally as talented and
LSU's interior offensive line, anchored by center Rudy Niswanger, will face a
more evenly matched battle in the trenches than it did versus an outmanned
State defensive front.
Player to Watch:
Gerald Riggs Jr.
Red Bank HS
Why it is important to stop
Gerald Riggs Jr. was on everyone's
preseason all-SEC lists and is one of the top tailbacks in the nation. Through
two games, he has been one of few bight spots on offense for the Volunteers. In
two outings, Riggs has rushed for 196 yards on 40 carries and is averaging 4.9
yards per carry and 98 yards each game. Against
Florida, Riggs ran for 73 yards in
the first half, but managed just 13 in the second.
Who has to stop him?
LSU's defensive line is as good as
any in the country and will have to shut down any hint of
Tennessee's rushing attack to win
the game. The Vols are struggling to throw in the ball right now. If the Tigers
can neutralize Riggs, the Vols will have the same problems in
baton Rouge as they did in
Gainesville in terms of the scoring
points. One other item of note, Riggs hasn't seen the end zone this
LSU rushing offense vs.
LSU boasts one of the top defensive
lines in all of college football.
Tennessee can do the same. The
Volunteers defensive front is anchored by all-SEC talents Jesse Mahelona and
Parys Haralson. In two games, the Volunteers have held opposing teams to a mere
60 yards rushing per game, which ranks 10th nationally. However, UAB
and Florida do not possess the
talent at running back, much less on the offensive as that of LSU. The Tigers
dominated the ground game against a much smaller defensive front seven at
State. Don't expect LSU to repeat
that performance against a good
Tennessee defense, but look for
this to be one of the equally best head to head matchups on the field. The key
will be the Volunteers outside containment.
Tennessee can clog up the middle,
but can LSU get an advantage on the ground running off the outside hips of
tackles Andrew Whitworth and Brian Johnson.
LSU passing offense vs.
Not to put too much pressure on the
shoulders of JaMarcus Russell, the game will inevitably come down to his right
arm. Tennessee has struggled to
score points. Everyone knows they are having problems at quarterback and while
Gerald Riggs is good, LSU's rushing defense is among the best in the country.
The key to victory for LSU will be can Russell effectively navigate the
Volunteer secondary. Russell's number are a bit skewed (16 of 29, 232 yards)
State due to several key drops. But
can the sophomore signal caller play with enough poise and consistency to get
LSU into the end zone.
rushing offense vs. LSU rushing defense:
As state above, both teams have
excellent defensive fronts.
Tennessee and LSU are equally
talented on the defensive line and aren't going to give up many rushing yards
this season. While LSU services its rushing attack by committee (see Joseph Addai, Justin Vincent, Shyrone Carey), the Vols possess one featured back in
Gerald Riggs, Jr. Riggs is a preseason all-SEC player and is arguably the best
back in the league, but beyond Riggs the Vols are scarcely limited. Through two
games, Riggs has accumulated 196 yards on 40 carries. The only other
Tennessee running back with
double-digit rushing yards is Arian Foster with 34 yards on nine carries. Plus,
with all five starters back on a very deep LSU O-line, the Tigers get a slight
passing offense vs. LSU passing defense:
The LSU Tigers are ranked
117th in the nation – LAST – in passing defense. Rightfully so.
State quarterback Sam Keller threw
for 461 yards and four touchdowns against LSU on Sept. 10 against a Tiger
secondary that had more holes than an old ragged sock. But judging from the Sun
Devils 772-yards performance versus Northwestern last weekend, it is pretty
apparent the Tigers aren't going to be the only recipient of Keller's pass-happy
wrath. While the Tigers have issues at the cornerback spots, they are no where
close to the problems the Volunteers are having at quarterback. It is safe bet
to call this even
LSU special teams vs.
This is pretty easy. Against
State, LSU blocked two kicks (punt,
field goal) and returned both for touchdowns. Tiger return specialist Skyler Green looks to be back in national championship form and the Tigers even
successfully faked a punt from its own end zone on the first offensive
possession of the season.
Tennessee had three major special
teams blunders including a fumbled punt, a blocked field goal and a botched fake
punt attempt that led to the decisive points in a
Florida victory. A no-brainer
After a lengthy wait, Tiger fans
will get to finally welcome its team home to Tiger Stadium in LSU's home opener.
Hurricane Katrina postponed Les Miles Death Valley debut several weeks, but it
is official the Tiger will take the field Saturday in a night game in Tiger
Stadium. Tennessee fans are
aggravated about the game not being moved to an afternoon kickoff to accommodate
visiting players and patrons who cannot find hotel rooms due to Katrina's
aftermath. The Volunteers team will actually fly in on Saturday morning and fly
out immediately after the game after turning down hotel rooms in an effort to
not displace evacuees. While Vol Nation is a bit perturbed by this inconvenience
(if you can truly call it an inconvenience considering the last few weeks here),
the LSU officials are right on by allowing the Tigers a much deserved night
game. While it would be an obvious pick to give LSU the advantage here,
Tennessee rarely loses two games
in a row and now take on that "angry dog backed in a corner" mentality. Plus, is
there a chance LSU could come out too high?
Not buying it? Neither are we. LSU
will win this game and we'll tell you why. It has been said this
Tennessee team is grossly
overrated and its poor showings versus UAB and
Florida supply plenty of evidence.
Even though the Vols are talented and beloved by the national media, the
schedule alone (at No. 5 Florida, at No. 3 LSU, at No. 20 Alabama, at No. 18
Notre Dame) is enough to count out
Tennessee from the beginning.
Plus, toss in major quarterback issues and you have a full-blown, five-alarm
fiasco similar to that LSU faced a year ago. For heaven's sake, Phil Fulmer
started Rick Clausen… (not a typo) RICK CLAUSEN… at quarterback in The Swamp?
Talk about issues. If the Volunteers have any chance of winning in Tiger Stadium
"AT NIGHT" (insert sarcasm directed at
Tennessee fans), Fulmer had better
start and stick with Erik Ainge at quarterback. While
Tennessee does have good skill
people and a talented defense, it still won't be enough.