The LSU Tigers (7-3) will head into Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee this weekend for their matchup with the Tennessee Volunteers (4-6). The first game between these two in six years will take place at 7:00 EST this Saturday, with the game being aired on ESPN.
Life without ex-coach Butch Jones has begun for Tennessee, as their restless fan base finally got what it wanted with the coach’s firing. He was canned after the team’s fifth loss in the last six games. They are a dreadful 0-6 in SEC play.
RB John Kelly was the one bright spot of their offense, but even his production has fallen off recently. Last Saturday, he had a measly 17 yards on nine carries against Missouri. He’ll need seven times that number just to keep the Volunteers close.
The quarterback play is still suspect for the Vols. Jarrett Guarantano is still battling an ankle injury, but could play Saturday. While he’s the best option at the position, he’s only had one game-changing performance out of the seven games he’s been in.
LSU will come into Neyland Stadium after rolling over Arkansas 33-10. They’ve only had one loss since September, and have an impressive win over Auburn among those games. Derrius Guice has continued to carry the load, as he nears 1,000 yards. He had 147 on a mere 21 carries (7.0 YPC) last weekend.
The Tigers have also returned to some of the defensive dominance that use to set them apart from most teams in the country. They will face a tough test with Kelly, but have been beyond stingy against the pass.
They’ll come in as 15 ½-point favorites on the road.
Don’t expect Neyland Stadium to be rocking much harder or the Volunteers to play any tougher with Jones gone. This has been an abysmal season for them, and is only about to get worse by not making a bowl game.
The Tigers have been able to cover up many of their holes on offense by the constant shifting of offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s offense. It worked wonders against Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, and Ole Miss.
And against a Tennessee defense that gave up 433 rushing yards (not a typo) against Missouri, Derrius Guice is going to have a field day.
And on top of that, the Tigers have a suitable backup in Darrel Williams to share the load. With the backs less tired toward the end of the game, the Tennessee front seven certainly will be.
John Kelly will be the only thing to save Tennessee from a blowout. LSU has still been susceptible here and there against better backs. But since they’re so good against the pass, and Tennessee has no pass-game, LSU can commit extra numbers to the box. This will spell trouble for a O-line that can’t consistently open up holes for Kelly, and one 112th in sacks allowed.
A fair share of rain in the area might bog the game down a little, but LSU won’t mind a bit. Guice will break open this game, and the Tigers will never look back.