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Tennessee at LSU: Staff predictions

Vols or Tigers?

NCAA Football: Southern at Louisiana State Scott Clause-USA TODAY Sports

The gauntlet that is SEC play continues on Saturday. Thankfully for Tennessee, they managed to get LSU at noon somehow. We’ll see if that makes a difference.

The No. 8 Volunteers are set to take on the No. 25 Tigers in Baton Rouge on Saturday, the third ranked matchup of their five games so far this season. It’s an uncomfortable spot for Tennessee, likely playing without Cedric Tillman and perhaps looking ahead to No. 1 Alabama next week.

Can they take care of business?

Terry: Tennessee 30, LSU 24

Scary, scary spot here for Tennessee, especially more than likely without the services of Cedric Tillman. LSU doesn’t have a passing game at all, but they’ve found a way to claw their way to 4-1 and quite easily could be 5-0.

The Tennessee front will be tested all day long, and I fear this one never gets comfortable. I think this one goes down to the bitter end, but Hendon Hooker scores one too many times to put the Tigers away.

LSU hasn’t been able to find a hot start in the first two SEC games, that probably has to change for them to win in this spot. If they do, it’s likely a dogfight all afternoon.

I think you get just that — but Tennessee finds a way.

Nick: Tennessee 31, LSU 24

So far, in each of the games I called “swings games,” — Pittsburgh and Florida — I picked Tennessee to lose. But the Vols managed to pull out dubs on both occasions and even managed the last one with Cedric Tillman.

Well, they’ll have to work that magic again, since we know Tillman won’t be playing because he got hurt in the Akron game by being on the field when Tennessee was up four TDs. I’ll get over that, eventually. Maybe.

LSU has the nation’s 16th-best defense and is holding opponents to fewer than 15 points per-game. The Tigers are never bereft of talent, and Brian Kelly hit the transfer portal hard in the offseason to offset the attrition from the coaching change.

The key to this game will be LSU’s offense against Tennessee’s defense. Jayden Daniels is dynamic on the ground and hasn’t thrown an interception yet this season. The Vols’ defense needs to find a way to get to him without leaving the secondary twisting in the wind.

My gut/ intuition/ conditioning tells me this is when UT finally comes back down to Earth and leaves Death Valley with a loss. LSU’s a decent-to-good team with a good coach, and they’re at home. But I don’t wanna be wrong picking against the Vols, again.

Clint: Tennessee 38, LSU 28

I place a decent amount of weight into certain advanced metrics and rating systems. But I have to say, this is one of the exceptions. More than a few systems have LSU outright winning this game, or Tennessee only winning by a hair. I’m going to take the Volunteers to cover.

I think there’s a slight lag with LSU‘s current performance and their actual talent level. They are not a bad team at all...but if you’ve watched them this year, they don’t play like they have the talent they supposedly do.

I think Tennessee will be able to move the ball through the air pretty easily. Even with Cedric Tillman out, Tennessee’s receivers proved against Florida that they can pick up the slack. LSU already has some depth issues in the secondary. I also think the Tigers will be able to get home on some of their pass rush opportunities and bring down Hooker. It’s essential that these plays don’t create turnovers.

Conversely, I don’t have a ton of confidence that the Tennessee defense can get off the field with any consistency. We could see lots of LSU drives that take 10+ plays and burn time off the clock. The silver lining here is that LSU‘s offense really hasn’t looked in rhythm against any Power 5 opponent this year, beyond Mississippi State in the second half. It just seems like they’re still learning the system and aren’t willing to test defenses all that much.

I think this one is close for a half. But I think Tennessee pulls away sometime in the third quarter and solidifies the results in the final 10 minutes or so.

Matthew: Tennessee 35, LSU 24

There’s two big matchups that are integral to a Tennessee win. The trenches (duh) and Tennessee’s scuffling secondary against LSU’s receivers.

Hooker and the weapons around him are going to make plays, but Hooker is fumble prone when under pressure, and LSU creates a lot of pressure. Inversely, big games from Byron Young and Tyler Baron could be in order as LSU is starting two freshman tackles.

LSU’s passing game was very subpar a week ago, but having seen Tennessee’s secondary, it worries me that this is a game they could break out, especially the dormant volcano that is Kayshon Boutte.

Watch towards the end of the half and the start of the second half. Both teams are very good in that “middle 8” and it’s where Tennessee opened the game up against Florida. I’ve got Vols by 11.