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LSU set to tangle with Tennessee

LSU fans know all too well what it’s like to be a Tennessee fan right now.

They were in the Vols’ shoes exactly one year ago.

LSU takes on Tennessee this weekend in Knoxville at a crossroads time for the storied Volunteers’ program.

Tennessee fired coach Butch Jones earlier this week after a tough season and an embarrassing loss against Missouri last Saturday.

Interim coach Brady Hoke will coach Saturday’s game and LSU coach Ed Orgeron said he expects a spirited effort from the Volunteers on Saturday – much like LSU gave him last season when he was the team’s interim coach.

“I know they’re going to be emotionally ready,” Orgeron said. “I know Brady Hoke as a coach. I have a lot of respect for him. I know he’ll have his team ready to go. But it’s not going to be about them; it’s going to be about us and how we prepare this week.”

If ‘ya take the emotions of a new coach out of it, this looks like a game, on paper, at least, that LSU can dominate.

The Tigers are a powerful rushing offense under first-year coordinator Matt Canada – the type of team that pounds opponents throughout the game.

On the other side of the football, Tennessee’s rushing defense is abysmal – ranked dead last in the SEC and No. 126 in the country (out of 129 teams), allowing 256.9 yards per game on the ground this season.

Orgeron said a power running game will be heavily a part of LSU’s plan this week – especially with forecast calling for cooler temperatures, gusty winds and a 100 percent chance of rain at kickoff, according to weather.com.

“Those runs, those tough runs send a signal that says it’s going to be a physical football game,” Orgeron said of the desire to get the chains moving on the ground.

Offensively, Tennessee has weapons, but their quarterback play has been shaky at best.

The Volunteers have completed 152-of-272 passes on the season with eight touchdowns and nine interceptions.

That shouldn’t bode well against an LSU defense that’s coming into its own and has strung together several solid performances in a row after a rough start to the season.

“We have to be better there,” Hoke said. “We have to finish drives. We’ve gotten close at times, but we don’t get the number of points that we need to when we’re down there.

Kickoff for the game is set for 6 p.m.

The game will be televised on ESPN.

 

LSU offense vs. Tennessee defense

Advantage: LSU

 

LSU’s offense is hardly a well-oiled machine, but Tennessee’s defense is atrocious, which makes one wonder why the Volunteers promoted Hoke to interim head coach, seeing as how he’s been running that defense all year. Weather is a concern, yes. But LSU should be able to bully the Volunteers up front and push forward with relative ease. Everyone else has done it. Why can’t LSU?

 

LSU defense vs. Tennessee offense

Advantage: LSU

 

Tennessee’s running game is decent. Halfback John Kelly is a nice player, owning three games with 100 yards rushing this season. But his last such game came on Sept. 23. That was a long, long time ago. The Volunteers can’t consistently throw the football down the field, which allows opposing defenses to stuff guys into the box to take that run threat away. LSU’s defense should be able to handle such a one-sided attack with relative ease.

 

Special teams

Advantage: Tennessee

 

Just when we started to buy into LSU’s special teams a little bit, the Tigers’ kicking game got the hiccups and we’re right back at square one. If you can’t make an extra point without a mulligan, then I can’t pick your unit to be better than someone else’s. I’m sorry. I just can’t do it.

 

DIG’s PICK

LSU 34, Tennessee 16

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