Tennessee’s trip to LSU on Saturday has the perfect backdrop for a trademark win. The Vols will face a ranked opponent on the road and are the favorites coming off of a bye week.
The Florida win seems to have only raised the Vols’ already high confidence level. Imagine how Tennessee will feel if they leave Tiger Stadium with a win.
Here are five reasons why the Vols will beat the Tigers and one reason they won’t:
The Vols are in their second season under Tennessee coach Josh Heupel and the improvement has been glaringly obvious in rebuilding the program. There is an optimistic, confident team culture that was severely lacking before Heupel arrived. LSU is rebuilding as well, but the Tigers are just in the midst of their first season under coach Brian Kelly.
Culture changes take time. Things are getting better at LSU, but the implosion in the season-opening loss against Florida State was just a month ago. There could be another implosion before things get better, especially if tough times arise in the bayou.
The Vols simply have a much better quarterback than LSU. It’s readily apparent, but the stats also back it up. Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker has the top passer rating, 183, in the SEC. LSU’s Jayden Daniels is ranked eighth in the SEC with a 141 passer rating.
Both quarterbacks have a good set of receivers to throw to. However, Daniels seems fearful of making a big mistakes and doesn’t force the ball downfield enough. Sure, he can run, but the Vols showed they can contain a running quarterback on the ground when they played Florida’s Anthony Richardson. Daniels and Richardson are not the same style exactly, but the Vols should be prepared for the overall concept.
DB U? No Geaux
LSU’s pass defense is ranked fifth in the SEC, allowing 184 passing yards per game. That’s not bad. However, the Tigers have faced some pretty inept teams that make that statistic look better than the Tigers actually are, such as Southern and New Mexico.
Against Mississippi State’s Will Rogers and Auburn’s Robby Ashford, the Tigers have allowed 43 completions on 80 pass attempts for three touchdowns and two interceptions. Neither of those quarterbacks are as good as Hooker.
Tame Tiger Stadium
There is no question that Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La., is one of the toughest places to play in the nation – if it’s a night game and if LSU is good. Well, the game will be held at 11 am CST and the Tigers are slightly above average at best. This will not be the same setting that has challenged Tennessee teams in the past.
Tame Tiger Stadium II
Tennessee’s offense is high tempo. Why? That’s what Heupel likes to run and that’s what he’s most adept at. Certainly, it has worked well at Tennessee. However, Heupel’s offense can also take the crowd out of a game. It’s hard to get up for a play and cheer loudly when, oops, the play just happened.
The One: Tennessee Pass Defense
The Vols have been just bad on pass defense this season and they just lost one of their better defensive backs when Warren Burrell was ruled out for the season with an upper-body injury. The Vols are dead last in the SEC in pass defense, giving up 309 yards per game. If LSU beats the Vols, pass defense, or lack thereof, will be the reason.