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November 30, 2007

Who has the edge: LSU vs. Tennessee

MORE: SEC surprise | Video Preview

Game of the Week: No. 5 LSU vs. No. 14 Tennessee
Tennessee run offense vs. LSU run defense
EDGE: LSU Arian Foster came on strong late in the season and has rushed for at least 100 yards in three of his past four games, but Tennessee still ranks only ninth in the SEC in rushing offense. LSU is 14th in the nation against the run and has allowed only 3.1 yards per carry. However, the Tigers ended the regular season by giving up 385 rushing yards to Arkansas. Then again, Darren McFadden has made plenty of defenses look bad. As well as Foster has played the past month, he's no McFadden.
Tennessee pass offense vs. LSU pass defense
EDGE: LSU Senior Erik Ainge has found another gear late in the season and is playing as well as he has in his career. Ainge rallied the Vols from a 15-point deficit against Vanderbilt two weeks ago and threw seven touchdown passes in a quadruple-overtime victory over Kentucky last week. He faces a much tougher challenge Saturday against an LSU team that ranks third in the nation in pass efficiency defense. A key to Ainge's success has been a line that has allowed only three sacks. Will he get similar protection against Glenn Dorsey and Co.?
LSU run offense vs. Tennessee run defense
EDGE: LSU LSU doesn't have a 1,000-yard back, but the Tigers still rank second in the SEC and 12th in the nation in rushing offense with a diverse backfield that features Jacob Hester (181 carries, 897 yards), Keiland Williams (63-424) and Charles Scott (43-318). They all should find plenty of running room against a Tennessee defense that has allowed 4.2 yards per carry.
LSU pass offense vs. Tennessee pass defense
EDGE: LSU LSU has played so many close games this year that it certainly has given Matt Flynn plenty of experience in dealing with pressure situations. Flynn also benefits from a receiving corps that matured when star wide receiver Early Doucet was injured earlier this season. Tennessee is 11th in the SEC in pass efficiency defense and has allowed 23 touchdown passes, tied with Kentucky for the most in the conference. The Vols could struggle to contain LSU's passing game even if Flynn's shoulder injury forces the Tigers to turn to backup quarterback Ryan Perrilloux.
Tennessee special teams vs. LSU special teams
EDGE: Tennessee Tennessee's Daniel Lincoln already has made go-ahead field goals this year in victories over South Carolina and Vanderbilt on his way to going 21 of 26 on the season. Tennessee P Britton Colquitt averages 42.1 yards per attempt. LSU's Colt David is 23 of 29 on field goals, while Patrick Fisher averages 43.8 yards per punt. Lincoln's experience this year in late-game pressure situations and gives Tennessee a very slight advantage.
Tennessee coaching staff vs. LSU coaching staff
EDGE: Tennessee LSU has been atop the national rankings for much of the season, while Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer has been on the hot season for the majority of the year. Then again, Fulmer seemingly has had a magic touch late in the season, when Tennessee won three games by three or fewer points. We also wonder how much those rumors linking LSU coach Les Miles to the Michigan job might be distracting his staff this week.
Tennessee will win if
The Vols have to keep the game close. Tennessee doesn't look to be good enough to blow out a team as talented as LSU. But as long as this game stays close heading into the fourth quarter, the Vols have to feel confident after going 3-0 during the regular season in games decided by three or fewer points.
LSU will win if
Instead of dwelling on the Arkansas game, LSU needs to correct the mistakes it made against the Razorbacks. LSU has the better team, but Tennessee is good enough to pull the upset if the Tigers are still stewing over how the loss to Arkansas devastated their national-title hopes. LSU must stay focused and shore up a defense that allowed Arkansas to run wild last week.
X-factor
Tennessee's pass protection. No team in the country has done a better job of protecting its quarterback this season. The Vols wouldn't be here if their line hadn't blocked so well during the regular season. They won't have a chance to win unless their line performs equally well Saturday.
The picks
Megargee's pick: LSU 31-17
Other Rivals.com expert picks:
Olin Buchanan, senior college football writer: LSU 27-21
Mike Huguenin, college sports editor: LSU 35-24
Bill King, Rivals Radio host: LSU 31-20
Check out the rest of the Rivals.com Expert Picks.

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.



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