Wait is Over

LSU and Vanderbilt enter Saturday's Southeastern Conference matchup on opposite ends of the spectrum for various reasons.

Even after last year’s 8-5 season, LSU is still considered one of the top college football programs in the country. Vanderbilt, on the other hand, is still looked at as the whipping boy of the SEC.


Vandy did win its first bowl game in 53 years in 2008 – a Music City Bowl victory over Boston College – and for the first time in two decades fans were able to enjoy a season in which the Commodores won more games than they lost.


Gameweek Links:
  • Q & A: Vandy Style
  • A Little R & R
  • Wednesday Media Briefing
  • Toliver's Opening Statement
  • TSD TV: Patrick Peterson
  • TSD TV: Charles Scott
  • Working on Fundamentals
  • Miles Responds to Washington
  • A Look Ahead: Vanderbilt
  • Returning 18 starters from last year’s 7-6 team is reason for optimism in Nashville, but let’s face it, we’re still talking about the same old Vanderbilt. Or are we?


    Last season, Bobby Johnson’s squad knocked off three opponents that were ranked at the time they played them – Boston College (No. 24), Auburn (No. 13) and South Carolina (No. 24) – and has defeated a total of five ranked foes since 2006, notching a 17-6 victory over No. 6 South Carolina in 2007 and a 24-22 win over No.16 Georgia in ’06.


    The Commodores are riding high after last week’s 45-0 shutout of Western Carolina, but comparing the Tigers to the Catamounts is like comparing a good ole’ can of Spam to a New York Strip.


    Sure, LSU didn’t set the world on fire in its opener against Washington, but the last time the Tigers were in Tiger Stadium they were throttled and embarrassed by Ole Miss, 31-13.


    During the week, several LSU players recalled the last time Tiger fans saw them at home and those memories are far from fond for the fans and players alike.


    There are still more questions than answers surrounding both teams heading into their conference opener, and after each of their performances in week one, something’s got to give come Saturday night in Death Valley.



    When Vanderbilt Has the Ball


    Vandy set several marks last week during the Bobby Johnson Era. 


    The Commodores rushed for 433 yards – the most in 30 years – and the Commodores ran 95 plays which is also the most under Johnson’s watch. They also set a high for the most first downs under the eighth-year headman with 33 first downs.


    The total number of plays and first downs may cause nightmares for some Tiger fans after last week when Washington ran 83 plays compared to LSU’s 48, and hammered out 25 first downs against John Chavis’ defense which was the most allowed by an SEC team in week one.


    The odds of Vanderbilt running for 400-plus yards this week, however, are slim to none and the true freshman duo of Zac Stacy and Warren Norman, who combined for 238 yards and became the first 100-yard rushing duo at Vandy in nearly seven years, will find a much tougher time running against the Tigers.

    Tigers need big plays from theor defensive linemen

    LSU’s defensive line is banged up with Pep Levingston listed as doubtful, and while there weren’t many encouraging signs with the Tigers’ play in the trenches last week, one was Drake Nevis (4 tackles & 1 sack).


    The Tigers’ linebacker corps of Harry Coleman, Jacob Cutrera, Perry Riley and Kelvin Sheppard will provide good run support and Vandy is going to have to get a great game from quarterback Larry Smith.


    Smith, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound redshirt sophomore, can run and throw, but he is no Jake Locker. Smith rushed for 66 yards and threw for 153 on 10-of-18 passing with a touchdown last week, and he’s going to work the short passing game.


    Vanderbilt will test LSU’s linebackers as the two leading receivers last week were tight ends Brandon Barden (3-38) and Austin Monahan (3-31), but Smith also has a couple of receivers capable of making big plays in Alex Washington (2-16) and Justin Green (1-46-1 TD).


    LSU’s secondary will not be tested as much as it was against the Huskies, but if the Tigers give as much cushion on the edges and the safeties play as far back then the dinks and dunks will there be there all night. Of course, the secondary needs help from a pass rush which is something it did not get last week.



    When LSU Has the Ball

    The Tigers averaged 6.7 yards a play against Washington and had a few big plays as Jordan Jefferson hit Terrance Toliver for 25, 39 and 45 yards, and added an 18-yard run to start the game that was followed by Charles Scott’s 21-yard scamper.


    However, no one will say that LSU’s offensive machine was clicking on all cylinders.


    The Tigers need to get better play on the offensive line against Vandy and get the running game going. Scott has proved what he can do and Williams ran with as much decisiveness and confidence as he has in a while.


    A couple of NFL scouts I spoke to this week feel that Vanderbilt’s corners – Casey Hayward (6-0, 182) and Myron Lewis (6-2, 205) – matchup well with Toliver and Brandon LaFell, and they particularly like the Lewis and LaFell matchup.


    Myron Lewis is Vandy's big-play man in the secondary

    LSU got zero production from its receivers outside of the two starters last week and someone out of the Chris Mitchell, R.J. Jackson, Rueben Randle group needs to make some plays. But in their defense, it’s hard to make plays when the offense was as vanilla as it was against Washington and it is on the sidelines for most of the night.


    Vanderbilt didn’t get much from its starting defensive line last week, but 6-foot-3, 280-pound backup defensive tackle T.J. Greenstone logged a team-high five tackles, registered a sack, and recovered a fumble.


    The Commodores did get good output from starting middle linebacker Chris Marve – four tackles, a sack and two forced fumbles – and weak side linebacker Patrick Benoist with four stops and a fumble recovery. Marve, a redshirt sophomore, is considered one of the best in the SEC in his class and is known for being a punishing hitter.


    Richard Dickson could pose some problems for Vanderbilt’s linebackers, and after catching one pass for nine yards last week he could be a much bigger factor on Saturday.



    Glancing At Special Teams

    LSU gets the edge on special teams and that may have some scratching their head after last week.


    Josh Jasper hit all four of his PAT’s, nailed his 24-yard field goal, and looked good on his kickoffs. Vandy’s Ryan Fowler, on the other hand, hit a 25-yarder and missed from 32 and 45 yards.


    The punting was woeful for LSU and it wasn’t much better for Vandy. Derek Helton averaged 32 yards a kick with a long of 38 on four punts for the Tigers, while Brett Upson is only averaging 27.5 yards a punt with a long of 42 yards. He did knock one down at the 12 yard line, but Bobby Johnson expects more form his senior punter.


    LSU has a big edge in terms of speed in the return game, but will Trindon Holliday get a chance to return one or will Vandy follow the Huskies’ lead and sky kick?



    How We See It

    Les Miles has faced Vanderbilt only once and the Tigers won going away, 34-6, in Miles’ first year – 2005.


    The Tiger defense under Bo Pelini yielded only 138 total yards with 25 on the ground and 113 through the air. The LSU offense was just as dominant as it rolled up 479 yards and showed balance with 194 rushing yards and 285 passing by JaMarcus Russell.


    With the sloppy field conditions expected on Saturday, 285 yards passing from Jordan Jefferson is a little unrealistic. I expect to see a heavy dose of Charles Scott between the tackles with some Keiland Williams sprinkled in.


    Defensively, John Chavis wants to see improvement and better technique, and he should after last week’s showing.


    The Tigers will give up more than 138 yards to the Commodores, but they will keep it under 300 as the linebackers show that they are going to be the strength of this unit.


    LSU fans wanted to see Russell Shepard last week, but they will get their chance on Saturday and he makes it worth their while as he gets into the end zone.


    The first half is too close for comfort but LSU plays better in the second half…..


    LSU 30, Vanderbilt 13

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