Amidst all this BCS talk and coaching comings and goings you could almost overlook the fact that LSU and Tennessee are about to square off to determine the Southeastern Conference championship Sattidy night.
On paper, this one doesn’t look particularly close. The SEC tracks thirty-one different sets of team statistics; LSU leads UT in 20 of them. Even more ominously, in defensive team stats, LSU is ahead of UT in nine out of ten categories (weirdly, LSU is last in the conference in red zone defensive percentage).
Also, take a look at what Matt at Statistically Speaking has to say about Tennessee’s season and its chances tomorrow.
These are the point totals the Vol defense has allowed away from K’Ville this year: 45, 59, 21, 41 and 50. (The 21 was by Mississippi State and its 93rd nationally ranked scoring offense.) That’s more than 43 points per game on the road.
Now LSU has given up its fair share of points over its last seven games, including 43 to Kentucky and 50 to Arkansas in two triple overtime battles (oops! Sorry, Mr. Feinstein…), but in spite of that still finds itself ranked 22nd nationally in scoring defense, at just over 20 points per game.
More on point, LSU has not failed to score less than 28 points in any game it’s played all season.
Add to the mix that both teams are coming off of multiple overtime games from last week and the whole thing screams “SHOOTOUT!”.
So the big question to me is whether Tennessee can keep up with LSU on the scoreboard. Honestly, I’m not sure it can. Though he’s been overshadowed by Tebow and Woodson, Ainge has had a terrific year. He’s really been the glue that’s held UT together to this point, but I don’t think he’ll be able to do it by himself.
I don’t see the Vol defense being able to do enough to let Ainge match what the LSU QBs will do. Word is that Flynn is still a bit gimpy, so I expect we will see a good bit of Perrilloux and I don’t think UT will have a solid answer for him on defense. The Tennessee defense doesn’t do running quarterbacks real well.
The intangibles are strange, of course, with Miles and Pelini considering head coaching positions elsewhere while preparing for this game. In the end, that probably won’t make much of a difference. By the time the game starts, the ACCCG will be close to over, and if Virginia Tech beats Boston College as expected, that will snuff whatever faint hopes the Tigers have of jumping back into the MNC race. LSU under Miles tends to play quite well when the pressure’s off.
What I expect is that LSU wins by ten or so, say 41-31.
What I’d like is another LSU loss in overtime, just so I could hear Les Miles explain what three overtime losses are equal to – you know, like if a tie is like kissing your sister, maybe three OT losses are like kissing your aunt. The one with the mustache…