Devil's Advocate

Welcome to Devil's Advocate — Inside Tennessee's version of point/counterpoint — where each week analysts Randy Moore and Jeffery Stewart take opposite sides of the field to make their case for our readers' regular amusement and occasional edification.

Miles' Boys Are Paper Tigers

By: Randy Moore

Les Miles' LSU Tigers are living up to their ferocious nickname this season, shredding opponents and devouring them ... until they face a quality foe, then they roll over like harmless pussycats.

Don't take my word for it. The statistics are overwhelming:

The Tigers' six victims — Louisiana-Lafayette (4-3), Arizona (3-5), Tulane (3-5), Mississippi State (2-7), Kentucky (4-4) and Fresno State (1-7) — have a combined record of 17-31. The only victim with a winning record, Louisiana-Lafayette, notched its victories against North Carolina A&T, Eastern Michigan, Houston and Florida Atlantic.

LSU has faced two foes with an actual pulse, Auburn (8-1) and Florida (7-1), losing each time.

The Tigers averaged just 66 rushing yards per game vs. the Talented Two (Auburn and Florida) but averaged 189 rushing yards per game vs. the Sloppy Six.

LSU scored all 19 of its rushing touchdowns and 16 of its 17 passing touchdowns vs. the Sloppy Six.

The Tigers manufactured 3 points vs. Auburn and 10 vs. Florida, an average of 6.5 points per game. They averaged 45.7 against the Sloppy Six.

LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell is completing 77.8 percent of his passes (91 of 117) vs. the Sloppy Six. He was 20 percentage points lower (57.9) against the Talented Two. Three of his four interceptions came in the loss to Florida.

Here's another eye-popping stat: The Tigers are 6-0 at home, 0-2 on the road. Thus, the fact Saturday's game with Tennessee will be played in Knoxville bodes well for the Big Orange. So does the fact the Vols have a pulse ... unlike Louisiana-Lafayette, Arizona, Tulane, Mississippi State, Kentucky and Fresno State.


By: Jeffery Stewart

When I first heard LSU was favored in this game, I thought it was a mistake. How could oddsmakers have the Tigers (6-2, 2-2) picked to beat the Vols (7-1, 3-1) on a November afternoon in Neyland Stadium?

After all, the Vols are 77-7 in November games since 1985 and they own an impressive 11-1-1 advantage over LSU in games played in Knoxville. Plus a Tennessee team that wasn't nearly as good as the 2006 squad went to Baton Rouge last year and beat a LSU team that was clearly better than the current model.

That's actually the jumping off point on this ride of logic because that memorable 2005 upset is still stuck in the craw of the Tigers and their supporters. Not only did the Tigers blow a 21-0 lead, they did it in a game dedicated for the purposes of bolstering the spirits of hurricane ravished Louisiana residents.

The Tigers went on to post an 11-2 record with a 40-3 victory over Miami in the Peach Bowl. The Vols finished with their first losing season in 17 years.

If the opportunity to erase painful memories and avenge last season's loss to Tennessee wasn't enough emotional fuel for the Tigers' tank, consider their schedule. LSU is coming into this game on the heels of an off, which was preceded by home games against Kentucky and Fresno State. Each game was a breeze, as the Tigers hardly worked up a sweat.

Conversely, UT is coming in this contest off two taxing games against Alabama and South Carolina. Both of these foes beat Tennessee in 2005 and carried the Vols to the limit in 2006 before late Tennessee comebacks. The end result was a pair of SEC wins for the Vols along with a long list of casualties.

Now Tennessee tangles with a Tiger team that leads the SEC in both total offense and total defense. A team that is No. 2 in passing and No. 3 in rushing. That's more balance than the Vols have been asked to defend against the entire season.

But the bigger problem for pass-happy Tennessee is lack of balance on offense. That problem is compounded by the fact LSU's pass defense is the best in the conference, and the Tigers enjoy good match-ups with the Vols across the board.

It was no accident UT's offense ran into early problems against LSU's defense last season. The Tigers lead the SEC in sacks with 26 and Erik Ainge's limited mobility was exploited by their speed off the edge, and complex blltz packages.

Undoubtedly, Ainge is better this season than last. Ditto for UT's entire offense. Still he has been erratic when pressured and LSU specializes in bringing the heat. It should be even more of a problem on Saturday with Ainge nursing a high ankle sprain and unable to practice for most of the week. Jonathan Crompton can do some things outside of the pocket that Ainge can't. But his lack of experience will be a serious drawback against a defense that plays as fast as LSU does. Additionally, the Tigers disguise their blitzes as well as any team in the nation.

The Vols haven't been able to establish their run against defenses much weaker than LSU's, and will be hard pressed to alter that trend tomorrow, especially with LaMarcus Coker missing in action and Arian Foster hobbled by a nagging ankle sprain.

Examine this game closely and the odds favor LSU.

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