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
Top-ranked LSU looks to continue its impressive start and beat
Tennessee for the fourth straight time Saturday at Neyland
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
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
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
“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.”