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2007 SEC Championship Fearless Prediction
Tennessee RB Arian Foster
Tennessee RB Arian Foster
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Nov 28, 2007


Previews and Prediction for the 2007 SEC Championship - LSU vs. Tennessee

SEC
East  Florida | Georgia | Kentucky | South Carolina | Tennessee | Vanderbilt 
West Alabama | Arkansas | Auburn | LSU | Ole Miss | Miss State

SEC Fearless Predictions Sept. 1Sept. 8 | Sept. 15Sept. 22 | Sept. 29 
Oct. 6Oct. 13 | Oct. 20Oct. 27 | Nov. 3Nov. 10 | Nov. 17Nov. 24

How are the picks so far? SU: 76-20... ATS: 50-34-2

Tennessee (9-3) vs. LSU (10-2)

Dec. 1, 4:00 p.m. ET, CBS

This might not have been the matchup or the circumstances many wanted, but it could be a better game than it's being given credit for. Unfortunately, the history of recent SEC Championship games would beg to differ.

National Rankings
Tennessee LSU
Total Offense
53rd  403.92 ypg 24th  446.83 ypg
Total Defense
71st  402.92 ypg 3rd  278.92 ypg
Scoring Offense
22nd  35 ppg 10th  40.17 ppg
Scoring Defense
70th 28.67 ppg 22nd  20.08 ppg
Run Offense
64th  148.83 ypg 12th  219.5 ypg
Run Defense
64th  158.42 ypg 14th  103.83 ypg
Pass Offense
39th  255.08 ypg 55th   227.33 ypg
Pass Defense
83rd  244.5 ypg 6th  175.08 ypg
Turnover Margin
26th  0.50 2nd  1.50
Tennessee
at California L 45-31
So Miss W 39-19
at Florida L 59-20
Arkansas St W 48-27
Georgia
W 35-14
at Miss St
W 33-21
at Alabama
L 41-17
S Carolina
W 27-24 OT
UL Lafayette
W 59-7
Arkansas
W 34-13
Vanderbilt
W 25-24
at Kent. W 52-50 4OT
LSU
at Miss St W 45-0
Va Tech W 48-7
Middle Tenn
W 44-0
S Carolina
W 28-16
at Tulane
W 34-9
Florida
W 28-24
at Kent.
L 45-37 3OT
Auburn W 30-24
 at Bama W 41-34
La Tech W 58-10
at Ole Miss
W 41-24
Ark.
L 50-48 3OT
Position Ratings
relative to each other
T 5 highest
1 lowest
LSU
5 Quarterbacks 4.5
4 RBs 4
4 Receivers 4
5 O Line 3.5
2.5 D Line 5
4 Linebackers 4
3 Secondary 5
4 Spec Teams 3
4 Coaching 4

Considering this is the showcase game for the nation's premier conference, it's been a dog with fleas for the last nine years (even though last year's Florida win over Arkansas was entertaining), and since its start in 1992, the title game has seen only three of 15 games decided by fewer than double-digit points. In the minds of many SEC fans, it'll probably be a tenth straight dud considering the team they wanted from the East isn't here.

Sorry, but Georgia has to buy a ticket to get in. It's Tennessee, who whacked the Dawgs 35-14 to spark a run of seven wins in eight games, and held off Kentucky last week in a four-overtime thriller, to take the East title for a shot at its first BCS bowl appearance since losing to Nebraska in the 2000 Fiesta Bowl. This is also a chance for the Phil Fulmer era to once and for all silence all critics who've been waiting for the program to be among the elite again. 0-2 in SEC Championships since winning it, and eventually the national title, in 1998, the Vols will finally show everyone they're for real if they can get by the Tigers.

LSU knows all about what it's like to be in Georgia's shoes after holding the unofficial title of the SEC's Best Team at the end of the 2006 regular season, only to miss out on the title game after losing the West to Arkansas. This year's team had an even better run with everything set up for a shot at the national title before Darren McFadden had other ideas in an all-timer of a three-overtime Hog win. Of course, Florida came into last year's SEC Championship game against Arkansas needing a miracle to play for the national championship, and UCLA provided it with a win over USC. Things are vastly different this season, but LSU can still stoke the debate if it roars its way to a big win.

Seventh in the latest BCS rankings, it might seem impossible for the Tigers to be anywhere near Glendale on January 7th, and they might realistically be shooting for the Sugar Bowl with a win, but in this crazy year, a dominant, blowout victory over Tennessee could change things in a hurry.

Even after the loss to Arkansas, the generally held belief is that LSU still has the most talented team in America, or is an extremely close second or third, and while it has two losses, with both coming in triple overtime; it's not like it got stomped on by anyone.

But LSU can't start playing the what if game. Oh sure, if Missouri loses to Oklahoma, West Virginia loses to Pitt, Virginia Tech loses to Boston College, and LSU beats Tennessee by an impressive double-digit margin, it'll have a beef, but first, there needs to be a big win this week over a team that's answered the bell time and again.

Ever since losing to Alabama 41-17 on October 20th, it appeared to be a question of when, not if the Vols were going to blow it to allow Georgia or Florida to slip into the title game. But they survived an overtime war against South Carolina that was so brutal it basically ended the Gamecock's season. They stuffed Arkansas in a 34-13 stunner. They survived a missed winning field goal attempt against Vanderbilt, and managed to get through four overtimes to beat Kentucky. Sorry, but they really are good.

This is the team that won't die.

So now the question becomes what kind of LSU will show up? Will it uncoil its breathtaking array of speed, power and talent and finally show it's the SEC's dominant team? After all, six of its last seven conference games were decided by a touchdown or less, with the one blowout win coming against Ole Miss in a better battle than the final score would indicate. Or will this be a slightly depressed team that was hoping this would be gateway game to a national title and might have been mentally planning for a heavyweight showdown with Georgia?

If the Tigers don't take Tennessee seriously, the Vols will pull a reversal of 2001 when they came into the title game in Atlanta needing to beat LSU, a big underdog, to play for the national championship, only to get shocked 31-20. If the Tigers are fully focused, this could be the statement game many have been waiting for. If Tennessee comes out with a major-league us-against-the-world screw-you attitude, like it did against Georgia, it's more than capable of winning.

Part history might not be kind to the SEC title game, but if both teams play up to their capabilities, it'll be entertaining.

Players to watch: Everyone's banged up at this time of year, but LSU doesn't appear to be quite the same without its two defensive stars at 100%. While injuries are hardly an excuse for the loss to Arkansas, it'll be worthy of note how well DT Glenn Dorsey and S Craig Steltz play after coming up with tough performances.

Darren McFadden might win the honor of being the nation's most talented player, but in the eyes of many NFL scouts, Dorsey is in the running. Despite not being nearly the same monster he was before hurting his knee, thanks to being on the wrong end of a questionable block against Auburn, he gutted his way through the second half of the season as the anchor of the defense and tone-setter for the rest of the line.

Steltz has also fought through a variety of injuries but has still managed to come up with 89 tackles and six interceptions. Despite being far less than 100%, he proved to be the one player able to put a stop to McFadden's dashes last week with 12 solo hits and 16 total tackles in the loss. The All-American is the one Tennessee QB Erik Ainge will have to account for on every play. LSU junior Curtis Taylor is a whale of a free safety, but Steltz is the one who can turn around a game in a heartbeat.

If it weren't for Tim Tebow, Ainge would be showered with all the SEC praise and accolades after coming up with a monster of a season. Despite losing all his star targets from last year, he managed to complete 64% of his throws with 27 touchdown passes and eight interceptions. Three of the picks came against Kentucky last week, but he also threw seven touchdown passes as he came through time and again in overtime. The senior leader will have to be cool, calm, and collected in the face of the Tiger defensive pressure, and he has to be able to consistently get the ball to his targets in places where they can do something with them. He hasn't exactly had a ton of success against LSU, getting knocked out of the 2006 loss and struggling through the 2005 win combining to complete just eight of 25 passes for 58 yards and an interception in the two games.

For Tennessee's defense, this might finally be the game the world takes notice of junior LB Jerod Mayo.
Talent has never been an issue; staying healthy has been. He has finally gotten through a year relatively injury-free and came through with with 112 tackles with a whopping 34 in the last two games. He made seven solo tackles against Vanderbilt and 11 against Kentucky, and this week, it'll be his job to butt heads over and over again with LSU bruising fullback Jacob Hester when the Tigers try to power the ball.

LSU will win if... the line can protect a beat up Matt Flynn. The LSU quarterback gutted it out against Arkansas, but had to undergo a series of injections to stay in the game. He stepped up his play in the second half against the Hogs, but he's beaten up. Tennessee has the prototype looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane defensive front that gets shoved around way too much against the run and doesn't to anything to get into the backfield. Last in the SEC in tackles for loss, Tennessee has to manufacture pressure from the start or LSU's attack will do whatever it wants to. LSU's O line has to play better after giving up way too many sacks over the second half of the year, but the UT line will help make the Tiger front five look good. The Vol secondary got ripped up last week by UK's Andre Woodson, and while Flynn isn't Woodson, he can be extremely effective if given time.

Tennessee
will win if... it gets Arian Foster rolling right away. Ainge will be Ainge. He won't make too many mistakes and will make the right reads and the right throws most of the time, but for Tennessee to pull this off, it needs Foster to get rolling from the start. He's not Darren McFadden, who ran for 206 yards and three scores on LSU last week, but he should find a little room to move on a slightly overrated Tiger defensive front seven that allowed 385 yards to the Hogs and 201 yards to Ole Miss two weeks ago. It'll also help to prolong the game as much as possible. No, that doesn't mean take it into a third overtime, even though LSU suffered both its losses in the third period of extra time, but it does mean that the longer the game is close, the more it favors Tennessee. LSU is the more beaten up of the two teams.

What will happen: LSU's defense is coming off two straight rough outings, but it's almost like the team has been just waiting to get to this point. Oh sure, it knew all the implications of last week's game, but from the team's apparent attitude throughout this week, it's almost like they just wanted to get to Atlanta so they could finally claim their destiny. Tennessee is good enough to win this game if it scores early in a blitzkrieg-like fashion, like it did against Georgia, but the defense will be too porous from the start. Matt Flynn will have a brilliant game while Jacob Hester will power his way to an effective 75 yards and three scores.

Line: LSU -7.5 ... CFN Prediction:
LSU 34 ... Tennessee 17

2006 SEC Championship
Florida 38 ... Arkansas 28
Florida got up 17-0 helped by a nine-yard Chris Leak run and a 37-yard pass to Percy Harvin, but had a fight on its hands the rest of the way. Arkansas used everything possible to generate offense with Marcus Monk catching a 48-yard touchdown pass from Casey Dick, Darren McFadden threw a two-yard touchdown pass to Felix Jones, and WR Cedric Washington threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Jones on a double-pass. A 40-yard interception return for a touchdown by tackle Antwain Robinson off a Leak pitch gave the Hogs a 21-17 third quarter lead, but the Gators got the big plays to take the lead for good with a botched Arkansas punt return recovered for a Florida touchdown and Harvin ripping off a 67-yard touchdown run for a 31-21 lead. The Gators put the game away on a five-yard pass from Andre Caldwell to Tate Casey.
Player of the game ... Florida WR Percy Harvin caught five passes for 62 yards and a touchdown and ran six times for 105 yards and a score and LB Brandon Siler made 12 tackles

 

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