December 3, 2022

The LSU Tigers and Tennessee Volunteers Throw Down In Early Morning Top 25 Showdown

Today at 11:00 A.M. Central Time, the number eight ranked team and undefeated Tennessee Volunteers travel on the road to take on the 25th ranked 4-1 LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium. It is a rare occurrence that these two cross division opponents have played each other and even more rare that the LSU Tigers play an early morning game at Tiger Stadium. Despite being known for playing in night games, LSU has had plenty of success in the rare pre-noon kickoffs holding a 11-3 edge in those games.

The last time Tennessee played in Death Valley was back in 2010 when the LSU Tigers won in miraculous finish when the Tigers were granted one extra play near the goal line because Tennessee had too many men on the field. Stevan Ridley would score on the untimed down and give LSU a thrilling 16-14 victory. This is also the first time both of these teams came in ranked inside the top 25 since the 2007 SEC Championship Game won by the LSU Tigers.

The Tigers have won five straight over the Volunteers in this matchup, but entering this game, the Tennessee Volunteers enter as the favorite led by quarterback Hendon Hooker, who in many cases, is a front runner for the Heisman Trophy. The veteran senior quarterback has been nearly flawless this season running Josh Heupel’s up-tempo attack as he has thrown for 1,193 yards passing for eight touchdowns and zero interceptions.

“Josh Heupel has done a great job in a very short period of time of putting his stamp on this team. It’s a fast-paced team. They are the fastest team in college football. (Hooker) is talented. He’s big, physical, he can throw the football, and he’s got playmakers.” 

LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on Josh Heupel’s offense

What helps is that Hooker has a lot of weapons to throw the football to. Even though star wide receiver Cedric Tillman will not play in today’s game, Jalin Hyatt and Bru McCoy have been quite the duo combining for 40 catches for 571 yards and four touchdowns through four games. For a team to average 48 points per game, it is not just about the passing game. The Volunteers have shown to run the football very effectively averaging 193 yards per game and have punched the ball in the end zone 15 times.

The Volunteers’ offense has been explosive and one of the best in the entire country, but the unit will have its toughest challenge today playing against one of the hottest defenses in the country in a hostile environment. The LSU Tigers defense, led by defensive coordinator Matt House, has been outstanding only giving up 14 points per game, especially in the second half shutting out its two SEC opponents Mississippi State and Auburn. The Tigers also have a plus five turnover ratio in the turnover battle.

“I think Matt’s done a great job. He’s an experienced defensive coordinator in the SEC, first of all. He did a great job with Coach (MarkStoops at Kentucky, was outstanding in his stops at Pittsburgh and North Carolina State.

LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on Matt House

Up front, the Tigers have one of the best defensive fronts in the country led by BJ Ojulari, who is coming off a SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week performance and leads the team with 3.5 sacks. Mekhi Wingo, Jaquelin Roy, and Ali Gaye have also been great leading the starting defensive line.

At linebacker, freshman Harold Perkins has been incredible with 22 tackles, two tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and an interception. The rest of the linebackers have been playing great football too as Greg Penn III, West Weeks, and Mike Jones Jr. all have racked up more than 10 tackles this season.

With a new look secondary, there have been a lot of question marks, but the defensive backs have lived up to the DBU mantra only giving up 184 passing yards per game through the air. Jay Ward is playing at an All-SEC level leading the team with 25 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, an interception, three pass breakups, and a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown against Auburn. Greg Brooks made the game saving play last week in LSU’s 21-17 victory over Auburn stripping the ball from Auburn receiver Koy Moore late in the football game. Just like the Tennessee offense, the LSU defense will have its toughest task of the season playing against the fastest offense in the country.

“They can’t motion and shift and formation you to death, but you can’t do a lot either, right? It comes down to one-on-one matchups. We have to be fundamentally sound.”

Brian Kelly on how to approach the up-tempo Tennessee offensive attack

While Tennessee’s high flying offense and LSU’s ferocious defense will be a heavyweight matchup, the difference in the football game may come down to LSU’s offense against Tennessee’s defense.

Both units have struggled this season as LSU’s passing game is coming off their worst performance of the season with only 85 yards passing. There is a lot of talent on this Tigers offense led by Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels, who has completed 67% of his passes for 915 yards and six touchdowns. Daniels has been efficient and has been an explosive runner with 321 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, but he also needs to be more aggressive throwing the ball down the field completing only one pass 50 yards or more through five games. LSU’s receiving core is one of the most talented in the country led by Kayshon Boutte, Malik Nabers, Jaray Jenkins, Brian Thomas Jr., Jack Bech, and Mason Taylor so this is always a dangerous core that can break through. The good news for the Tigers is that this could potentially be the game the passing game could finally get explosive plays as the Volunteers defense has given up 365 yards passing per game and will be without defensive back Warren Burrell, who is done for the season.

LSU’s offensive line comes in with a lot of confidence after rushing for 185 yards behind the three headed tandem at running back that features Josh Williams, John Emery, and Noah Cain, but the front five received some troublesome news when it was announced that the Tigers would be without its freshman standout left tackle Will Campbell. The potential player to fill in that role protecting Daniels’ blindside is veteran Cam Wire.

On special teams, LSU has showed some struggles, but has improved over the season ever since the disastrous Florida State game. Jay Bramblett has averaged 44 yards per punt and has had a quietly productive season. Damian Ramos has handled field goals and extra points this season as he has converted three of five field goals and 22 of 23 extra points.

Tennessee’s kicker Chase McGrath has converted four of five field goals this season with a long of 51 yards while making all of his extra points this season.

Game Prediction: LSU 30 Tennessee 27

After a lot of questions regarding LSU’s passing game, I truly believe that this is the game that the passing game gets going and most importantly, the Tigers get number 7 Kayshon Boutte going. Jayden Daniels will be more aggressive this game going up against a banged up secondary and will have some success.

I would say it is very important that LSU starts much cleaner on both sides of the ball after giving up big deficits against Mississippi State and Auburn. If the Tigers can get off to a fast start, an upset in Tiger Stadium can happen, but if they give up a big lead early on, it could also be a long day for the Tigers.

It will be a great matchup between Tennessee’s offense and LSU’s defense. Both units will have their big plays in the football game, but LSU gets that one extra stop in the end to preserve the victory and get a huge upset against a top ten team.

Make sure to come back right here at the conclusion of this football game as we will recap this big Top 25 matchup between the Tigers and the Volunteers.

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