Posted by Jerry Hinnen
LSU WILL WIN IF: They do anything other than take careful aim at their own foot and blow it off. We've seen enough of both of these teams by now to know that down-to-down, play-to-play, drive-to-drive, the Tigers are the far superior team--especially considering the gigantic advantage LSU has in the running department, where Tennessee is the only team in the SEC averaging less than 100 yards per game. The only way LSU loses to the Vols is if the game becomes less about who's winning the down-to-down battle and more about who's capitalizing on the big play. The Bayou Bengals have made an art out of being that team under Les Miles, but all the same, if the Tigers blow a coverage for a long touchdown against Matt Simms ... if they allow a long return to dynamic Vol freshman Devrin Young ... if Jarrett Lee's old pick-six demons suddenly return to haunt him ... if those kinds of plays bring what could be an unhappy and dormant Neyland Stadium crowd to life ... the Vols could make this a game.
Unfortunately for the Vols, though, if LSU doesn't suffer any self-inflicted wounds, their advantages on both lines-of-scrimmage are such that they may not suffer any wounds at all.
TENNESSEE WILL WIN IF: Well, the aforementioned disaster scenario taking place on LSU's side of things would help immensely. But even in that case, the Vols will need something from their offense to actually pull out a victory. And with Simms in for the injured Tyler Bray, that means offensive coordinator Jim Chaney will have to find some way of snapping the Volunteer running game out of its current stupor. In the Vols two SEC games to date, Chaney's unit has totaled -- this is not a misprint -- minus-29 rushing yards. LSU's hardly the opponent you want to face when trying to fix that kind of problem, but the Vols don't have a choice: either get some measure of push up front, or watch the Tigers swallow your backup quarterback whole. Just ask Florida.
THE X-FACTOR: The echoes of last season. If there's one team the Vols might be irrationally confident about facing, even after last week's dud against Georgia, it's LSU. Despite entering that 2010 game as underdogs nearly as big as they are this year, Tennessee famously had Miles's team beaten until a replay review showed that the Vols had 13 players on the field for the game's chaotic final play--necessitating one more final play, on which the Tigers scored. If Derek Dooley can seize on that performance as reason to believe his Vols can play with the nation's No. 1 team -- and can get some early success to convince the crowd of the same -- they might just do it.
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