No. 1 LSU Tigers (6-0 SU, 4-2 ATS) at Tennessee Volunteers (3-2 SU, 3-2 ATS)
Saturday October 15th, 3:30PM EST, College Football Week 7
Neyland Stadium Knoxville, Ten
By Jay Horne, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Louisiana St. -15/Tenn +15
Over/Under Total: OFF
The top ranked LSU Tigers continue their march towards a National Championship by making a road trip to Knoxville to battle the Tennessee Volunteers this Saturday. After a two game home stand that was capped by a blow out over no. 17 Florida last week 41-11, the Tigers will take their 3rd road trip of the season in attempt to keep their unbeaten streak alive. The Volunteers will enter Saturday’s colossal showdown with LSU fresh off a hard fought loss to Georgia last week 20-12. Despite owning a 3-2 record on the year, Tennessee has dropped both of their only two conference match-ups on the season. This week the Volunteers attempt to score their first SEC victory in the biggest way possible by upsetting the top ranked Tigers.
If the Volunteers are to score the huge upset, they may have to do so without starting quarterback Tyler Bray. Bray has been impressive this season completing 66% passing for 1,579 yards with 14 touchdowns and just 2 picks while providing a huge boost to the Tennessee offense compared to the 2010 season. However towards the end of the Georgia game last week, Bray appeared to break the thumb on his throwing hand late in the game. Bray was unable to finish the game and his status for this Saturday is up in the air. Senior QB Matt Simms stepped in for Bray to complete 4 of 6 passing for 39 yards while leading the Volunteers offense to their only touchdown against the Bulldogs. If Simms gets the nod this week, he will get to go up against one of the nation’s toughest defenses for 4 quarters of play in what will be a big test of skill.
Luckily, Tennessee still has some playmakers to help challenge that tenacious LSU defense. The Volunteers own the 11th best passing offense in America averaging 311 yards per game. The go to man in the Vols passing offense is standout WR Da’Rick Rogers. Rogers ranks 2nd in the SEC in receiving with 513 yards on the season along with 6 touchdowns. Rogers is averaging more than 16 yards per catch and he is a guy that will grab a lot of defensive attention from LSU. Also, the Volunteers love to put the ball in the hands of running back Tauren Poole. Poole has been the workhorse for the Volunteers ground game after the last two seasons averaging 4.5 yards per carry. The Volunteers would love to establish the run against the LSU defense and establish some type of ball control. However, Poole was also banged up in the loss to Georgia with a hamstring injury and his status is also uncertain this Saturday. Therefore, the Tennessee offense may have to overcome adversity if Poole and Bray are both unable to go against LSU.
Of course Tennessee does not need to be shorthanded this week on offense as they take on the best defensive unit they have seen to date this year. The LSU defense has shut down some of the most explosive offenses in the country this year. Therefore things will be even more difficult for the Volunteers offense if they are without a few of their playmakers. For LSU, the defense will be looking to make another statement this Saturday. The Tigers have simply been outstanding holding opponents to 12.5 points per game (8th in NCAA) and only allowing 254 yards per game (5th in NCAA). While there may be only a few teams ahead of LSU in defensive rankings, no other defense has shut down as many offensive powers as LSU this season. This week that same LSU defense will be looking to add Tennessee to the list of offenses they have shutdown in 2011.
On offense, the Tigers appear to be getting better with each passing week. Despite ranking just 84th in total offense with 366 yards per game, the Tigers have posted 38.5 points per game this season which ranks 20th of all teams in the country. Of course the defense could be given a lot of credit as they have consistently put the LSU offense on the short side of the field. Still, QB Jarrett Lee has greatly improved the quarterback play for the Tigers offense. Lee is completing 60% passing for 947 yards with 8 touchdowns and just 1 pick. Last year LSU quarterbacks threw more interceptions than touchdowns and the offense was plagued with inconsistency troubles.
This year things have been much better and allowed the LSU offense to consistently move the ball down the field. If you think of how well the defense has played, LSU would be nearly impossible to beat with just any type of offensive success. Instead, the offense is striving with Lee at quarterback and a strong rushing attack. Running back Spencer Ware posted 109 yards in the win over Florida last week adding to his total of 432 on the year. So far this season, Tennessee has relinquished 139 yards per game on the ground. Therefore, I would expect LSU coach Les Miles to hand the ball off to Ware and backup Michael Ford as many times as it takes to wear down the Volunteers defense this Saturday.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: It seems like we say the same thing with LSU each week. The defense is just too good it’s unfair. Tennessee was held to just 12 points against an average Georgia defense last week. This week things will be even worse and the LSU offense will again capitalize off of the defense’s success. Take LSU for another big win.
Update: Tennessee QB Tyler Bray is out for Saturday’s game with LSU.
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