2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 7 - LSU at Tennessee
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Oct. 15 LSU 38 ... at Tennessee 7
CFN Analysis: Even when LSU isn't playing all that well, it's still able to win in a blowout. It's like the team turns it on when it has to, with Morris Claiborne changing the game around with a huge pick and the defense doing what it needed to against a middling Vol offense with no pop. Jarrett Lee once again came up with an efficient and effective game, and once again the offensive dominated with a power running game taking the heart out of the Vols. LSU held on to the ball for over 38 minutes with Spencer Ware and Jordan Jefferson running without much of a problem. There's one more tune-up game against Auburn, and then the national championship.
Tennessee gave a valiant effort but it was over late in the first half. The offense didn't have the pop or the passing game without Tyler Bray. Matt Simms completed 6-of-20 passes for 128 yards and two picks, but it's not fair to judge him on a performance against the LSU secondary. The running game was surprisingly decent, running for 111 yards, but it wasn't enough to throw any sort of a scare into the LSU D. Unfortunately, things don't get any easier with Alabama and South Carolina up next, and until the ground game can get better, if it can get better, the offense is going to keep sputtering in SEC play.
(AP) KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Even when top-ranked LSU isn't playing its best, the Tigers are still finding ways to dominate games.
Jarrett Lee and LSU got off to a slower start than usual against Tennessee but wore the Volunteers down in a 38-7 victory on Saturday. It was a record sixth straight victory over a Southeastern Conference East Division opponent for the Tigers, and their seventh consecutive win by a double-digit margin.
"I felt like we did what we needed to do," LSU coach Les Miles said. "It wasn't our best game, but we did what we had to do to ensure victory. Our defense gave us turnovers and the opportunities to take the opponent out. Our offense late in the game gave us the football and ate up the time of possession and scored."
It marked a departure in the series between the two teams in which three of the last four games have been decided by a touchdown or less, including last year's bizarre finish in Baton Rouge when LSU scored the winning touchdown after the game was extended by a Tennessee penalty for too many men on the field.
Matt Simms, making his first start of the season for Tennessee in place of the injured Tyler Bray, was 6 of 20 for 128 yards and two interceptions against one of the nation's best defense.
Twice LSU (7-0, 4-0) started drives on Tennessee's side of the field, and both times the Tigers turned the field position into touchdowns.
"It wasn't a really complex game," Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said. "In the first half, I thought we competed our tails off and had a couple of real bad mistakes that was ultimately the difference in the first half. In the second half, we had a couple of third-down opportunities where we didn't execute and they pounded us. I don't know any other way to say it."
The Vols had crossed midfield when Simms connected with Rajion Neal on a 38-yard pass that was ruled out of bounds but overturned on review. On the next play, Simms aimed deep for Da'Rick Rogers but hit LSU's Morris Claiborne instead.
Claiborne returned the interception 89 yards, but Zach Rogers caught up with him at the Tennessee 5. It was LSU's longest non-scoring interception return ever and longest return overall since Greg Jackson's 100-yard return in 1988 against Mississippi State.
On second down, Lee hit Rueben Randle for a 5-yard touchdown to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead with 14:56 in the second quarter.
Tennessee (3-3, 0-3) started the next drive on its own 11 and went backward. Odell Beckham Jr. returned Michael Palardy's 42-yard punt to the Tennessee 36.
On third-and-11 at the Vols 13, Tennessee blitz and Lee lobbed a screen pass to Spencer Ware, who went 13 yards for a score to give LSU a 14-0 lead with 10:01 in the second quarter. The Tigers' Drew Alleman tacked on an 18-yard field goal with 15 seconds before halftime.
Lee finished 10 of 14 for 115 yards, Ware ran for 80 yards and a score, Jordan Jefferson added 73 yards rushing and a touchdown on 14 carries and Randle had 86 yards receiving and a touchdown. Michael Ford and Russell Shepard also ran for scores.
Aside from LSU's 99 yards on interception returns, the teams played almost evenly through the first half.
The Vols kept from falling apart, even as Simms threw another interception midway through the second quarter. Tennessee's defense held LSU after the pick, and the offense put together an 80-yard drive.
Simms threw a 44-yard pass to Da'Rick Rogers, who dragged LSU's Tyrann Mathieu the last 10 yards of the play, and Tauren Poole covered 28 yards on seven plays before punching the ball in the end zone on a 2-yard run that cut the Tigers' lead to 14-7 with 2:24 before halftime.
But LSU's many weapons on both sides of the field got to be too much for the Vols after halftime. LSU finished with 383 yards to Tennessee's 239, picked up 13 more first downs and held the ball over 16 minutes longer than the Vols.
"Our running game is really strong right now, and our offensive line is blocking so well and playing smart football," Lee said. "We're keeping the ball in our hands and it's helping us right now."
Ware ran 1 yard for a touchdown to make it 24-7 with 7:53 in the third quarter.
"By the way (the Vols) were putting their hands on the ground, I could tell they were getting a little fatigued," Ware said. "We were having fun. When you're having fun, it makes it that much easier."
The running game was a surprising bright spot for the Vols, who last week Bray to a broken thumb.
After losing a combined 29 yards in losses to Florida and Georgia, Tennessee gained 111 yards on the ground against the fourth best run defense in the nation.
"We have had problems in the running game, but we just tried to put it on our back as an offensive line, hit them in the mouth and try to build momentum," Tennessee offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James said. "We left the first half with some momentum. We need to keep pushing each other and execute in the second half."
LSU (6-0) at Tennessee (3-2) Oct. 15, 3:30, CBS
Here's The Deal … No matter what happens or how interesting this game turns out to be, there's no way, no how, that it can come within ten miles of being as crazy as last year's 16-14 LSU win.
In a wild and controversial finish, LSU, down 14-9, appeared to have botched a chance for the win. On second down, and with no time outs left, Jordan Jefferson was tackled just short of the goal line with time ticking away. In a madcap attempt to change personnel, the clock ran down, the snap flew past Jefferson, and Tennessee appeared to have escaped. But the Vols had 12 men on the field, LSU got another shot, and Stevan Ridley ran for a one-yard score for the stunner.
LSU is playing too well to let it be anywhere near that close this season.
The Tigers are catching a few breaks, missing Florida quarterback John Brantley last week and not facing Tennessee star quarterback Tyler Bray this week, but it doesn't really matter; LSU doesn't need the help. The defense is swarming and playing at an elite level that only Alabama can match, while the offense is beating everyone up with a brutish offensive line that's paving the way for a strong ground game. Throw in the terrific special teams, and efficient passing game, and this is a complete team that's toying with opponents.
Tennessee isn't bad, and head coach Derek Dooley is still rebuilding the program after being hamstrung by the problems of past coaching staffs, and now he needs to patch things together to keep his team from getting obliterated. LSU is playing at a high level, but the banged up Vols haven't been able to get through the two big games against SEC East foes, losing in good battles against Florida and Georgia. Things are going to get worse before they get better, with a trip to Alabama up next and with a date at Arkansas down the road, but the Vols have nothing to lose. The SEC title is out of the equation, and the record might get ugly going into November, but they can let it all hang out and take several chances while hoping LSU comes in overconfident and looking ahead.
The two played in the SEC title game in 2007 – 21-14 LSU win – and Tennessee hasn't beaten the Tigers at home since 2001. Unless Dooley has a few miracles up his sleeve, it might be a while before it happens again.
Why LSU Might Win: Do the Vols have any skill stars left? There are decent replacements for the injured starters, but there's a big drop-off. Tyler Bray carried the offense and the team by bombing away, and now he's out after breaking his thumb. There hasn't been any running game to speak of, but Tauren Poole is a good back who hasn't had any room. He's hurt with a hamstring injury,
but he's going to try to fight through it and play. The receiving corps has been fine despite losing No. 1 target Justin Hunter to a knee injury, but against the LSU secondary – the West Virginia game aside – this is when his loss will be felt.
Tennessee hasn't run the ball all season long, and this week it can all but forget about the running game entirely against an LSU defensive front that's not giving up a thing. Oregon was stuffed for 95 yards and Mississippi State was kept to 52 yards. Florida got decent production out of Chris Rainey and Mike Gillislee, but without Poole at 100%, Tennessee doesn't have a back good enough to do much of anything. Be shocked if LSU gives up more than 100 yards.
Why Tennessee Might Win: The Vol defense has been just good enough to potentially keep LSU's passing game in check. The defensive front has been pushed around a bit, and the pass rush isn't there, but the secondary hasn't been bad. Opponents have moved the ball on Tennessee, but no one has exploded. LSU feeds off of big plays from the defense and a power running game that wears teams down, and while it'll have a few good marches, Tennessee should be able to win its share of moments on defense as long as the line can hold firm and force the Tigers into third down passing situations. The jury is still out on whether or not Jarrett Lee can consistently throw the ball in key, pressure moments.
Bray might have been the key to the offense and he'll be sorely missed, but others have made plays to help the attack keep the chains moving. The Vols are fourth in the nation in third down conversion percentage and are 12th in the nation in time of possession. LSU is fantastic at getting its defense off the field, but if Tennessee is somehow able to milk the clock, connect on third-and-midrange plays, and can win the turnover battle, there's just enough talent – even with all the injuries – to have a puncher's chance at home.
What To Watch Out For: Last year's Tennessee game was the rebuilding of Jarrett Lee. The finale might have come down to Jordan Jefferson, but it was Lee who did most of the heavy lifting completing 16-of-23 passes for 185 yards and a pick in his first meaningful performance of the year. He hasn't had to make any really big throws, with the exception of a key touchdown pass against Oregon, but he's been effective and efficient, throwing for 947 yards and eight touchdowns with just one interception against Mississippi State. How much more with Jordan Jefferson be in the mix and how much, if at all, will the two quarterback system be a problem? Everything has been working fine with Lee under center, but Jefferson will get more and more playing time.
Matt Simms, your table is ready.
The starter over the first half of last year, the senior wasn't too bad with eight touchdowns and a couple of big passing games, but he was ineffective once the SEC season got in full swing and he was pushed aside for Bray in the middle of the season despite completing 10-of-13 passes against South Carolina.
The son of former NFL star, Phil Simms, he knows what he's doing and he's not coming in cold, completing 4-of-6 passes for 39 yards against Georgia, but last year the offense wasn't moving when he was under center and now LSU has had a week to prepare for him. Extremely likeable and a natural leader, he has the perfect makeup for a No. 2 quarterback, and he has the experience from his time under center, and with his time at El Camino CC, to be ready.
What Will Happen: Tennessee's offense won't go anywhere. Even at full strength the Vols would have problems against a frothing-at-the-mouth Tiger defense, especially the secondary, but now there's just no star power. Simms is a nice backup quarterback, and he'll be fine against the average SEC teams, but LSU isn't an average team. LSU, won't have to take too many chances, but it can't help itself and it'll take a few more shots down the field. This will be an impressive, methodical win.
CFN Prediction: LSU 34 … Tennessee 16
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LSU -15.5 O/U: 43
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