These two squads are similar in several ways. They both have a set of great wide receivers. They both have a physical running back. They both avoided injuries to two key contributors. Rohan Davey and Travis Stephens both avoided serious injury for the first time in their careers. Davey and Stephens are the main reason these two teams are where they are today. Davey has had the greatest season ever by an LSU QB and Stephens has dominated teams all season and will garner lots of post-season attention. Much like the season, these two will determine the outcome of the game this weekend.
The 1st meeting between these two was an interesting game for three quarters. UT physically dominated the line of scrimmage from start to finish, but LSU hit some big plays to stay in it. It will take more big plays this time to keep it close. LSU has to come out and punch UT in the mouth early. Last time they hit a few deep balls at opportune times to keep the UT defense on their hills a bit. LaBrandon "Teauxfield" wasn't a factor in the 1st meeting. If LSU is to compete they must have a good game from #22.
Kelley Washington set the school record for receiving yards in a game against LSU earlier this season. The amazing thing is the fact that Washington was basically the only WR on the field. Parker separated a shoulder and Stallworth was out with a broken wrist. Stallworth is the straw that stirs the drink and the fact that LSU hasn't seen him is huge. If they couldn't cover Washington alone, just imagine how confident Clausen must feel having a full bevy of receivers. If Clausen gets off early, this one could get ugly in a hurry.
The biggest factor in this game is the Rose Bowl. UT has a chance at a national title game when nobody, including me, gave them a chance to get there. LSU became the 1st team ever to earn a berth in the SECCG with 3 losses in the conference. Whoever thought a 5-3 mark would have done it? It really makes the game look uneven. UT's only blemish was the miracle comeback by David Greene and the UGA Dawgs. If UT's defense makes a stop UT has a perfect season. UT knows what is at stake and they have a veteran group. If LSU catches the Vols looking ahead a bit who knows. LSU has the talent to beat the Vols, but it will take a lot of help and big breaks. If LSU wins the battle of turnovers they have a shot.
This game will be won or lost by the LSU offensive line. This is a weak point for them and has been all season. If they can give Davey some time he can create. They must protect him or this one will be over quickly. The 2nd matchup to watch is the UT WRs and the LSU secondary. The Tigers have something to prove after the poor showing last time.......well most of the season! The bottom line is they're still playing in Atlanta. LSU with all their problems have managed to come back and put together an impressive streak down the stretch. Teams that could throw the football have given LSU fits. Look for that to continue this week. I'm not saying they won't make it interesting, but they just don't have the horses. Davey and Reed will have a lot of yards, but unfortunately the stat page is not where the game is won or lost it's on the scoreboard.
You'll know it's over if UT gets 3 sacks in the 1st half and LSU has to resort to throwing the ball on nearly ever play late in the 3rd quarter. You'll know LSU is still in it if they can hand the ball to "Teaux" in the 4th. You'll know UT's in trouble if they have two turnovers on their own end of the field. UT has too much talent to lose this one, but that's why we play the games. If games were played on paper we'd all be preparing for an MSU vs. Florida SECCG. Oh well, there is always next year.
UT 31 LSU 20
Until next week,
Steve Robertson is a free-lance correspondent who writes The Robertson Report for the premium site portion of Gene's Page. Steve's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.