Matchup: LSU

This week, Tennessee takes on LSU in Knoxville. This is our take on this Vols vs Tigers matchup. If you talk to Tennessee coaches long enough, you'll become convinced LSU belongs in the NFL, not the SEC. The Tigers have great athletes at all positions. They've got a grizzly at quarterback. They've got strength, speed, experience and skill.

No wonder LSU leads the SEC in scoring offense and the nation in total defense.

It's a wonder LSU has lost two games.

Tennessee, 11-1-1 against LSU in Knoxville, tackles the Tigers Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on CBS.

``They're really good,'' said Tennessee receivers coach Trooper Taylor. ``When they walk out there on the hoof, we're going to look like we're down by seven. You look at their front four. They're so big, their picture is heavy.''

LSU (6-2) is favored by a couple of points, even though Tennessee (7-1) is ranked five spots higher in the AP poll and has one fewer loss and rarely loses to the Tigers.

That tells you what oddsmakers think of LSU's talent.

But on the road against quality opponents, LSU's results do not reflect that talent. The Tigers are averaging 45.6 points against weak opponents but 6.5 points in road losses to Auburn (7-3) and Florida (23-10).

LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell has completed over 70 percent of his passes for 14 touchdowns and one interception against weak teams. Against Auburn and Florida, he's completed 59 percent of his passes for one touchdown and three interceptions.

LSU's offense goes AWOL on the road against a good defense.

Is Tennessee's defense as good as Auburn and Florida? Florida clearly has a better defense than UT. The Gators allow 261 total yards compared to UT's 293.4 and 67.2 rushing yards compared to UT's 124.6. Auburn surrenders 287 total yards and 120.3 rushing yards, so those numbers aren't much better than UT's numbers.

A key for Tennessee will be a quick start. In LSU's six wins, the Tigers have outscored opponents 160-3 – that's not a misprint -- in the first half.

If UT can keep it close for three quarters, the Vols have the advantage. Tennessee has outscored its last five opponents 85-20 in the fourth quarter.

``They refuse to lose,'' Taylor said of the Vols' fourth-quarter mentality. ``Last year, we found a way to lose. This year, we're finding a way to win. If we can minimize our mistakes – jumping offsides, penalties, dropped balls, fumbles – we'll have a chance to win.''

Here is a position-by-position breakdown:

Game #: 1125
Site: Knoxville
Date: Nov. 4
Conference: SECW
Coach Match-up:
For the Vols - Fulmer and for the Tigers - Miles


Vols

Tigers
OLCOMMENTSOL

LSU ranks third in the SEC in rushing (158.1 yards per game) and has allowed just 10 sacks, third-best in the SEC. UT has allowed just six sacks in eight games, but the Vols are 10th in the SEC at 113.5 rushing yards per game, the worst figure since 1964 (83.9). And LSU has averaged just 58 rushing yards in four SEC games. Against Florida, LSU had 90 rushing yards, UT minus-11.

QB'sCOMMENTSQB's

Russell puts up gaudy numbers against weak opponents but hasn't played well against good defenses, reaching the end zone once in eight quarters. Ainge is having a terrific season, but how will he play on a sprained ankle? How will Jonathan Crompton respond if he's pressed into action? Edge: UT if Ainge plays. LSU if Ainge doesn't play.

RB'sCOMMENTSRB's

LSU doesn't have a back with over 300 yards, but they have several good runners. Freshman Charles Scott is the leader (277). Alley Broussard is slowly recovering from last year's torn ACL. UT's top two runners are averaging a combined 3.4 yards.

WR'sCOMMENTSWR's

Craig Davis, Dwayne Bowe and Early Doucet have combined to catch 107 passes for 1,618 yards and 13 touchdowns. UT's Robert Meachem, Bret Smith and Jayson Swain have combined for 104 catches, 1,671 yards and 15 touchdowns. If Swain isn't healthy, edge goes to LSU, but Swain figures to play.


Vols

Tigers
DLCOMMENTSDL

LSU lost three starters to the NFL yet might have the best front four in the SEC. Ends Tyson Jackson (6.5 sacks) and Texas transfer Chase Pittman (4.5) have 11 combined sacks. Glenn Dorsey and Marlon Favorite are outstanding tackles. The front four has 17.5 of LSU's 26.5 sacks. UT's front four has seven sacks and is giving up 52 more rushing yards per game than the Tigers.

LB'sCOMMENTSLB's

LSU's best linebacker is Ali Highsmith (34 tackles) but Darry Beckwith (51) is the leading tackler. Marvin Mitchell leads UT in tackles (69). Jerod Mayo (62 tackles, 5 sacks) is having an All-SEC season.

DB'sCOMMENTSDB's

LeRon Landry (40 tackles) is an All-American safety. Corners Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon have seven combined interceptions. UT corners Jonathan Wade and Antwan Stewart have five combined interceptions and the secondary has 10 of the team's 11 picks. LSU leads the nation in pass-defense efficiency thanks to 11 interceptions and three touchdowns allowed. UT ranks 44th.

S. TeamsCOMMENTSS. Teams

Chris Jackson averages 41.5 yards per punt. Colt David is 4 of 6 on field goals. Craig Davis had a 77-yard punt return for a touchdown against Fresno State. At UT, Britton Colquitt averages 46.4 yards per punt. James Wilhoit has made 11 of 13 field goals. Jonathan Hefney is averaging 17.9 yards on 11 punt returns.


Vols

Tigers
INTANGIBLES

LSU is seeking revenge after blowing a 21-0 first half lead to Tennessee last year in the Hurricane Katrina Game. It was LSU's only league defeat until the SEC Championship game. On the other hand, LSU is 1-11-1 in Knoxville. Tennessee leads the series 20-5-3.

PREDICTION

LSU 20, Tennessee 17.


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