Posted on: October 11, 2011 11:35 am
Edited on: October 11, 2011 11:36 am

Keys to the Game: LSU at Tennessee

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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Posted on: January 14, 2011 1:43 pm
Edited on: January 14, 2011 2:12 pm

David Oku transferring from Tennessee

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Overall, Derek Dooley enjoyed a successful first year at the Tennessee helm, salvaging a recruiting class that nearly came apart at the seams following Lane Kiffin's 11th-hour departure and dragging a Volunteer team with all kinds of depth chart issues and off-field squabbles to a bowl game.

But for all his accomplishments, no one will claim Dooley excelled in the area of getting some of Kiffin's highest-profile recruits to buy in. Neither five-star tailback Bryce Brown nor freshman All-American Aaron Douglas ever played a down under Dooley, and as of today four-star tailback/kick returner David Oku has also departed the Volunteer program .

The loss won't be a substantial blow to Tennessee's productivity -- Oku was not a major contributor this season, carrying only 42 times for 174 yards and returning 16 kickoffs for less than 20 yards a return -- but it drives home the fact that Dooley is more than willing to reshape the program with his own players and in his own image. The writing may have been on the wall for Oku, playing-time-wise, when Dooley said this to the media last September, just before Oku was stripped of his return duties:
You mentioned kickoff return. Can you talk about what you've seen from David Oku from that standpoint in the first three games?

"I've see nothing from him other than an inability to make yards. I don't think he's running with any conviction, and I've told him that. I think he runs tippy-toeing and searching."
In a word: ouch. That level of abrasiveness won't win Dooley any Mr. Congeniality contests -- and it might have helped cost him whatever modicum of depth at running back and returner Oku represented -- but as long as the Volunteers continue moving forward, no one's going to care.

HT on Dooley quote: @HABOTN .

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com