LSU-Tennessee Preview

For the second straight week, LSU’s vaunted defense faces a

quarterback making his first start of the season.

While that would seem to spell certain doom for Tennessee, the

Volunteers have confidence that Matt Simms can deliver a victory.

After all, he nearly pulled out a stunning win at Tiger Stadium a

year ago.

Top-ranked LSU looks to continue its impressive start and beat

Tennessee for the fourth straight time Saturday at Neyland

Stadium.

The Tigers (6-0, 3-0 SEC) are atop the AP poll for a third

consecutive week for the first time since 1959, and they’re the

first team in school history to win their first six games by double

digits. Four of those victories have come over ranked teams,

including last Saturday’s 41-11 win over then-No. 17 Florida.

Their two wins over unranked foes were by a combined 84-10

score, and that doesn’t bode well for a Volunteers team which has

lost seven straight and 13 of 14 to Top 25 teams.

Tennessee (3-2, 0-2) also must overcome one of the nation’s top

defenses.

The Tigers give up an average of 12.5 points – tied for

eighth-best in the FBS – and rank fifth in total defense at 254.0

yards allowed per game after holding Florida to 213. They hounded

freshman quarterback Jacoby Brissett in his debut as the Gators’

starter and intercepted two of his 14 pass attempts.

“We’ve had a nice start, but we’re not satisfied with our

position right now,” coach Les Miles said. “I like how the season

has progressed, but we look forward to the next games. In this

season and in every season it’s about the next game, never about

the last game. Our guys are looking forward to Tennessee.”

LSU has won three straight over the Volunteers since a 30-27

loss in 2005 – when both teams were ranked in the top 10 – although

the Tigers originally appeared to lose last season’s meeting.

Unranked Tennessee stopped then-No. 12 LSU at the goal line as

time expired but was penalized for having too many men on the

field. That set up a one-yard touchdown run by Stevan Ridley to

give the Tigers a 16-14 win.

Simms got the start in that game, and he’ll make his first start

of the season this weekend after Tyler Bray broke the thumb on his

throwing hand in the fourth quarter of last Saturday’s 20-12 loss

to Georgia.

Although Bray leads the SEC with 14 touchdown passes and an

average of 315.8 yards per game, Simms has plenty of experience and

led the Vols to their only touchdown against the Bulldogs last

weekend. The senior passed for 1,460 yards with eight touchdowns

and five interceptions in eight starts last season before being

replaced by Bray.

“Last year at LSU, (Simms) led us down there and we beat up on

them pretty bad right until the last of the game,” offensive guard

Alex Bullard said. “We have confidence in him. We can definitely

win with Matt. We can beat LSU with Matt playing quarterback. It’s

just all about 11 guys executing on both sides of the ball and

doing what we have to do against these guys.”

Simms, however, is taking over a one-dimensional offense that

doesn’t have a reliable running game. That’s unlikely to change

against LSU, which allows 69.2 rushing yards per game to rank

fourth in the FBS and 2.3 per carry to rank fifth.

The Vols are 114th out of 120 FBS schools in rushing, averaging

84.8 yards, after finishing with minus-20 on 23 attempts against

Georgia.

“We can’t run the ball,” said coach Derek Dooley, an LSU

assistant from 2000-2004. “If we can’t run the ball, we can’t beat

good football teams. That’s a fact.”

The Vols also have to contend with an LSU offense that has moved

the ball with ease.

Against the Gators, Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson combined to

complete 10 of 14 passes for 215 yards with two touchdowns and no

interceptions. The offense also racked up 238 rushing yards – led

by Spencer Ware’s 109 – against a Florida defense that came in

ranked in the top 20 against the run.

“We just go in and play great football,” said wideout Rueben

Randle, third in the SEC with 446 receiving yards. “Our coaches

have a great plan and we just go out and execute it. We have a

great team and great talent around here.”