Tennessee vs. LSU Game Preview

A weekly look at our upcoming opponent's recent history, with animated drive charts, links to SB Nation game pages, and statistical comparisons. Caveats.

Sketchy Conclusions

  • Looking at the two teams' only common opponent to date, LSU dominated the Florida team that beat Tennessee. Florida was at an offensive disadvantage against LSU, yes, but Tennessee was at an offensive disadvantage against Florida as well. LSU's full-powered offense didn't do a great deal better against the Gator defense than did Tennessee, despite the Vols re-jiggering their offense on the fly. Of course, Tennessee is now also operating without Tyler Bray, so take all of that for what it's worth.
  • LSU's offense is balanced and efficient, but it's the Tiger defense that is elite. And they're not elite because of any one particular player -- although Tyrann Mathieu is absolutely fantastic -- they're elite because they're all scary good and dangerous together.
  • To date, Tennessee has been pretty good at kickoff return coverage, but that's going to be tested this week.
  • Based on the numbers so far this season, I'm sorry to say that my prediction of zero rushing yards may be overly optimistic. Without Bray and Hunter, Tennessee's offense may be none-dimensional, which is not good news against an elite defense. John Stockdale stoicly acknowledges this fact with only a degree of grim in his determination and refers you to an unspecified date on his non-existent calendar when all of this bamboo-watering will pay off.

Predictions

  • LSU 20, Tennessee 6.

Schedule and Animated Drive Charts

 

LSU Logo

Oregon Ducks 9/3/11 win 40 - 27 coverage
Northwestern St. Demons 9/10/11 win 49 - 3 coverage
@ Mississippi St. Bulldogs 9/15/11 win 19 - 6 coverage
@ West Virginia Mountaineers 9/24/11 win 47 - 21 coverage
Kentucky Wildcats 10/1/11 win 35 - 7 coverage
Florida Gators 10/8/11 win 41 - 11 coverage

Tennessee Logo

Montana Grizzlies 9/3/11 win 42 - 16 coverage
Cincinnati Bearcats 9/10/11 win 45 - 23 coverage
@ Florida Gators 9/17/11 loss 23 - 33 coverage
Buffalo Bulls 10/1/11 win 41 - 10 coverage
Georgia Bulldogs 10/8/11 loss 12 - 20 coverage

That's a stellar resume for the Tigers. Double digit wins over the Ducks, who are generally doubling up their other opponents, and solid wins over the Mountaineers and the Gators. The Stockdale Optimist Without a Calendar in me notes, though, that Oregon hasn't played another ranked team and that that Florida team wasn't the same about halfway through the Alabama game the week before. And West Virginia? Overrated at #16 when they played the Tigers. The rest of their slate reads Marshall, Norfolk State, Maryland, Bowling Green, and Connecticut. So chin up.

Florida is the two teams' only common opponent, so the requisite drive charts go here:

FULL SCREEN VERSION


FULL SCREEN VERSION


Man, look at that early field position for LSU. One could discount all of those blue segmented lines on the theory that the Gators were operating without a quarterback, but it's the solid purple lines and the solid orange lines in which I'm most interested. I expected there to be a dramatic contrast between the Tigers' offensive output against Florida and that of the Vols' adjusting on the fly to the absence of Justin Hunter. But the drive charts don't make it look all that bad. Sure, Tennessee got only 279 against the Gators to LSU's 453, but apart from the post-Hunter mini meltdown, Tennessee moved the ball against Florida fairly well.

It probably all comes down to whether Tennessee's better off against that scary good D with Matt Simms than Florida was with the 15 guys they tried as backups to Brantley.

National Unit Rankings

OFFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
SEC Leader Actual
Rushing Offense 38 183.50 Navy 366.00 6 Alabama 217.00
Passing Offense 100 183.33 Houston 435.50 8 Arkansas 336.83
Total Offense 84 366.83 Houston 603.67 9 Arkansas 466.17
Scoring Offense 21 38.50 Oklahoma St. 51.40 2 Arkansas 39.17
Passing Efficiency 25 154.48 Baylor 214.07 2 Tennessee 162.49
Sacks Allowed 11 .67 Boise St. .40 1 LSU .67

Offensive observations. Stockdale likes the look of that passing offense and wonders why the rushing offense isn't ranked better than 38th in the nation and 6th in the SEC. They are efficient, though, and curiously, they rank pretty significantly better in scoring than they do gaining yards. Huh.

DEFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
SEC Leader Actual
Rushing Defense 4 69.17 Alabama 39.83 2 Alabama 39.83
Pass Efficiency Defense 6 98.46 UCF 71.15 3 Alabama 85.04
Total Defense 5 254.00 Michigan St. 173.40 2 Alabama 191.33
Scoring Defense 8 12.50 Alabama 7.00 2 Alabama 7.00
Pass Defense 17 184.83 UCF 100.20 5 South Carolina 128.50
Sacks T-42 2.17 Texas A&M 4.20 1 South Carolina 2.17
Tackles For Loss 10 8.00 Marshall 9.67 1 LSU 8.00

Defensive observations. Um, John Chavis' defense is elite, elite, elite. Top ten in the nation and top three in the SEC in every category except pass defense and sacks, in which they're still quite and pretty good, respectively. It's a very good thing that Stockdale doesn't have a pocket schedule and therefore doesn't know that it only gets worse next week.

SPECIAL TEAMS AND TURNOVERS RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
SEC Leader Actual
Net Punting 14 40.60 UTEP 44.15 3 Kentucky 41.43
Punt Returns 69 7.24 Ole Miss 31.71 9 Ole Miss 31.71
Kickoff Returns 44 22.61 Temple 29.60 7 Alabama 27.30
Turnover Margin 4 1.83 Rutgers 2.80 1 LSU 1.83

Special teams and turnovers observations. Eh, not sure what to make of this. At some point turnover margin is a function of solid fundamentals, effort, and intentionality, but it's also quite volatile, so perhaps they're just due for some gift-giving.

Players to Watch

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
OFFENSE
Rushing Spencer Ware T-74 72.00
Michael Ford 54.00
Alfred Blue 36.33
Passing Efficiency (Min. 15 Att./Game) Jarrett Lee 36 148.26
Total Offense Jarrett Lee 152.83
Spencer Ware 72.00
Receptions Per Game Rueben Randle 3.83
Odell Beckham, Jr. 3.33
Receiving Yards Per Game Rueben Randle 57 74.33
Odell Beckham, Jr. 44.67
Scoring Drew Alleman 47 8.50
Michael Ford 6.00
Spencer Ware 5.00

Offensive Observations. Surprisingly, there's really not much to see here. Sophomore running back Spencer Ware, who I'm sure I will call Spencer Tillman at some point this week, is a solid back, but he ranks only 74th in the nation with 72 yards per game. Put him together with fellow sophomore Michael Ford, though, and you suddenly have 126 YPG. Oh, and then add Alfred Blue, yet another sophomore RB, for another 36. Maybe it's all about the offensive line for these guys.

QB Jarrett Lee is efficient, and his favorite targets appear to be junior WR Rueben Randle and freshman WR Odell Beckham, Jr. Yet their field goal kicker gets 2.5 points per game more than the next leading player. So they're solid and efficient and balanced, but presumably carried by their defense. Cover the kids' eyes, because that's next.

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
DEFENSE
Interceptions Morris Claiborne T-72 .33
Brandon Taylor T-72 .33
Tyrann Mathieu T-72 .33
Sacks Sam Montgomery T-86 .50
Barkevious Mingo .33
Bennie Logan .33
Tyrann Mathieu .25
Kendrick Adams .25
Tackles Tyrann Mathieu 6.83
Brandon Taylor 5.67
Tackles For Loss Sam Montgomery .92
Tyrann Mathieu .83
Barkevious Mingo .75
Michael Brockers .75
Bennie Logan .75

Defense. Well this is interesting. Tyrann Mathieu, who has not one but two names for Verne Lundquist to mispronounce, is getting Heisman attention, and rightfully so if you've seen him play, but he ranks no better than tied for 72nd in any particular defensive category. It's likely because he's more of a turnover manufacturing plant and king of all trades than a defensive specialist. But again, it's looking more and more like LSU is just a fantastic team that is not dependent on any one or any handful of players. They're all good. It's not a giant harpoon we need to avoid this week, it's a swarm of venomous bees. Mathieu's name is on that list up there four times, but there are seven other guys getting into the action as well. Bees, I tell you.

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
SPECIAL TEAMS
Punting (Min. 3.6 Punts/Game)
Punt Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game) Tyrann Mathieu 38 7.46
Kickoff Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game) Morris Claiborne 6 29.08
Field Goals Drew Alleman T-36 1.33
All-Purpose Runners Spencer Ware 78.50
Rueben Randle 73.50

Special teams. It looks like our kickoff return yardage defense is also in for a test this week due to Morris Claiborne, who's done the following through five of six games this season: 4 for 83, 2 for 55, 3 for 154 and a TD, 1 for 24, and 2 for 33. Everything else is manageable.

Head to Head Comparisons

  Tennessee Logo LSU Logo
Comps
Result Against Comps
Prediction
UT rush v. LSU rush defense 84.80
(#114)
69.17
(#4)
Georgia
(85.83)
(#12)
-21 (Fulmerized) 0
UT pass v. LSU pass defense 327.20
(#11)
184.83
(#17)
Florida
(176)
(#12)
213 160
LSU rush v. UT rush defense 139.60
(#55)
183.50
(#38)
Florida
(194)
(#31)
134 140
LSU pass v. UT pass defense 204.20
(#33)
183.33
(#100)
Florida
(186.33)
(#98)
213 200
UT scoring offense v. LSU scoring defense 32.60
(#42)
12.50
(#8)
Florida/Georgia
(T-19.17)
(T-#20)
23/12 6
LSU scoring offense v. UT scoring defense 20.40
(#29)
38.50
(#21)
Cincinnati
(45)
(#T-9)
23 20

As always, these are informed guesses rather than mathematical calculations, and the general analytical framework is this: We are averaging X in a certain category. The opponent averages Y against that, which is most closely comparable to some identified previous opponent, against whom we did Z. All of that leads to an informed guess labeled as Prediction. The less data you have, the more sketchy the guess, and the guesses range from ALL CAPS SKETCHY WITH EXCLAMATION POINTS at the beginning of the season to merely lower case sketchy for the last game.

This week's example: On average, we're passing for 327.20 yards per game. LSU is holding opponents to 184.83. The closest comp is Florida, which is holding opponents to 176. Against the Gators, Tennessee got 213, but that was with Tyler Bray rather than Matt Simms, so our informed guess is 160 passing yards for the Vols.

Yeah, all of those comps need to have asterisks by them now that Bray is out. And yes, I'm predicting zero yards rushing. The worst part about that prediction is that it's an optimistic adjustment upward. On the score for Tennessee, I'm banking on some bending by Chavis's D, but I'm also counting on Simms not being sacked before he catches the snap.

Sketchy Conclusions

  • Looking at the two teams' only common opponent to date, LSU dominated the Florida team that beat Tennessee. Florida was at an offensive disadvantage against LSU, yes, but Tennessee was at an offensive disadvantage against Florida as well. LSU's full-powered offense didn't do a great deal better against the Gator defense than did Tennessee, despite the Vols re-jiggering their offense on the fly. Of course, Tennessee is now also operating without Tyler Bray, so take all of that for what it's worth.
  • LSU's offense is balanced and efficient, but it's the Tiger defense that is elite. And they're not elite because of any one particular player -- although Tyrann Mathieu is absolutely fantastic -- they're elite because they're all scary good and dangerous together.
  • To date, Tennessee has been pretty good at kickoff return coverage, but that's going to be tested this week.
  • Based on the numbers so far this season, I'm sorry to say that my prediction of zero rushing yards may be overly optimistic. Without Bray and Hunter, Tennessee's offense may be none-dimensional, which is not good news against an elite defense. John Stockdale stoicly acknowledges this fact with only a degree of grim in his determination and refers you to an unspecified date on his non-existent calendar when all of this bamboo-watering will pay off.

Predictions

  • LSU 20, Tennessee 6.
X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Rocky Top Talk

You must be a member of Rocky Top Talk to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Rocky Top Talk. You should read them.

Join Rocky Top Talk

You must be a member of Rocky Top Talk to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Rocky Top Talk. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9347_tracker