IT Picks SEC

There's only one game on the schedule this weekend but it's the big one – Tennessee vs. LSU in the SEC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome.

With just one outcome to project, analysts Jeffery Stewart and Randy Moore are providing some bonus picks this week by predicting each team's key statistics and developments.

Stewart locked up the regular-season picks title last weekend by going 6-2, pushing his 2007 record to 76-20. Moore went 5-3 last weekend and stands 71-25 with one game remaining.

Their breakdowns of the SEC Championship Game follow:


TENNESSEE'S RUSHING YARDS: This is always a key to the Vols offensive success because they have to maintain balance to keep the defense honest, and to set up play-action which increases UT's big strike potential. The Vols would like to get 150 yards or better. They will settle for closer to 110.

TENNESSEE'S PASSING YARDS: The air attack is hard to shut down because the Vols effective use of the two-step drop and Erik Ainge's quick release. Tennessee should reach 230 yards via the pass but if forced into a catch-up mode might hit near 300.

LSU'S RUSHING YARDS: The SEC's second leading rushing team behind Arkansas, LSU is very much built upon an agile, athletic offensive line that is comprised of adept drive blockers and able pass protectors. LSU gets 175 yards rushing against an improving but still suspect defense.

LSU'S PASSING YARDS: This isn't the best QB UT has seen this fall, but the receivers are outstanding and the weapons abundant — 242 yards passing.

TENNESSEE'S LEADING RUSHER: Who else? Arian Foster. The big junior has carried the mail this far. There are some questions about his whether his cutback style will be as effective on artificial turf and against a defense that closes on the ball better than any team in the conference. He should be good for 90 yards on the ground and 50 yards in receptions.

TENNESSEE'S LEADING RECEIVER: Got to go with Lucas Taylor for yardage (95) although Chris Brown may make more catches — seven.

LSU'S LEADING RUSHER: Jacob Hester gives the Vols a lot of problems, but Keiland Williams is the back they have to stop. They'll hold him under 100 about 82 yards.

LSU'S LEADING RECEIVER: A great example of how recruiting often has an immediate impact. The Vols and Tigers battled to the wire for JC wideout Demetrius Byrd last winter. LSU won and Byrd has been worth the effort as UT fans will see Saturday when he catches six for 94 yards and a touchdown.

TENNESSEE'S SURPRISE PLAYER: True freshman wideout Gerald Jones looks ready to break out with a big game. He might run the ball a little too.

LSU'S SURPRISE PLAYER: Little big man Trindon Holliday, a 5-foot-5, 159-pound back and return specialist with 4.27 speed could make a big difference at some point Saturday.

KEY TO THE GAME: Getting off to a quick start and pushing the pace. The Vols will function better in the lead than trying to come from behind. If LSU is forced to play from behind the fatigue factor could kick in.

FINAL SCORE: Tennessee 33, LSU 31.


SSEE'S RUSHING YARDS: 150. Among LSU opponents, I think Kentucky has an offense most similar to Tennessee's. The Wildcats were without star tailback Rafael Little when they faced the Tigers but still ran for 125 yards. I think UT's ground game is at least 25 yards better than Kentucky's.

TENNESSEE'S PASSING YARDS: 250. Again, I'm basing my number on the Kentucky model. The Big Blue's André Woodson was 21 of 38 for 250 yards against LSU, and I think Erik Ainge's numbers this Saturday could be virtually identical.

LSU'S RUSHING YARDS: 120. Among LSU opponents, Alabama's defense is the closest to Tennessee's in that it is mediocre against the run and even weaker against the pass. The Tigers managed just 87 rushing yards against the Tide, mostly because Matt Flynn had a career day throwing the ball. Unless Flynn goes off again, I think LSU will run more often and more effectively against the Vols.

LSU'S PASSING YARDS: 310. Flynn completed 24 of 44 passes for 353 yards against a Bama secondary that is comparable to Tennessee's. I think the Tigers lost some of their swagger following last weekend's loss to Arkansas, which should work in favor of the Vol defense.

TENNESSEE'S LEADING RUSHER: Arian Foster, 25 carries for 100 yards. He's been the Vols' horse down the stretch, and he may have to fill a workhorse role with chief backup Montario Hardesty slowed by an ankle injury.

TENNESSEE'S LEADING RECEIVER: Lucas Taylor, eight catches for 115 yards. He's a Louisiana native, so this game means a little extra to him.

LSU'S LEADING RUSHER: Jacob Hester, 17 carries for 80 yards. The Tigers have basically entrusted their ground game to the hard-nosed 230-pounder and he has come through in a big way. Speed backs seem to give Tennessee more trouble than power backs, however.

LSU'S LEADING RECEIVER: Early Doucet, 12 catches for 145 yards. He might be the most complete receiver in college football. He'll be a nightmare for Tennessee's youthful defensive backs.

TENNESSEE'S SURPRISE PLAYER: Safety Jonathan Hefney. He's had a quiet senior season but I just have a hunch he's going to make a key interception or a fumble-causing hit that will prove crucial.

LSU'S SURPRISE PLAYER: Receiver Demetrius Byrd. With UT keying on Doucet, Byrd could burn the Vols, as well. My guess: 8 catches for 110 yards.

KEY TO THE GAME: Turnovers. They're almost always the key to ANY game. I think LSU will come out flat after losing to Arkansas, causing the unfocused Tigers to lose a couple of fumbles and a couple of interceptions.

FINAL SCORE: Tennessee 27, LSU 24

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