It’s week six and the Vols are headed to Baton Rouge! On Saturday, Tennessee and LSU will go head-to-head in Death Valley in their first matchup since 2017. At 4-0 and ranked in the top ten, the Vols will look to bring a 5-0 season back to Knoxville ahead of next week’s game against the Crimson Tide. Tennessee vs. LSU kicks off at 12:00 PM EST and can be livestreamed on fuboTV.
Tennessee Vols: Where They Are Now
The Vols’ season is off to an excellent start. After defeating the Ball State Cardinals, Pittsburgh Panthers, and Akron Zips, Rocky Top brought the house down with a week four win over SEC East rival, the Florida Gators. In a game that packed Neyland Stadium and dominated Twitter for days, the Vols defeated the Gators for the first time since 2016.
The Vols win over the Gators moved the team into the No.8 spot in the AP Top 25 College Football Poll. Now a top ten team, the Vols will don their Smokey Greys on the road in a bid to dominate the Tigers at Death Valley this week.
Tennessee vs. LSU: What to Expect
Tennessee and LSU haven’t played each other since 2017. This should be another big week for the Vols, but they will need to come prepared because the Tigers certainly will.
Tennessee is running arguably the fastest offense in the country, led by dual threat quarterback Hendon Hooker. LSU’s defensive scheme relies heavily on playing press man coverage and trying to bring pressure. That won’t work against the highly physical Tennessee receivers. For LSU to mitigate the impact of Hendon Hooker’s offense, they will have to contain him and keep him in the pocket. The Vols’ offense is better than the Tigers’ defense so that’s a task that won’t come easy for the Tigers.
The Vols’ defense is the team’s point of weakness. Tennessee’s defense let Anthony Richardson look like a great quarterback instead of a good quarterback and there is the possibility it could do the same for LSU’s Jayden Daniels. Senior LB Aaron Beasley is the heart of Tennessee’s defense right now, and though he’ll be an obstacle for Daniels, he is also tasked with continuing to lead the defense to victory. This is a task that won’t come easy for the Vols.
Despite the loss of Cedric Tillman, Tennessee’s receivers fared well against the Gators. Bru McCoy had over 100 yards and a touchdown. Ramel Keyton, who started in place of Tillman, had over 60 yards and Jalin Hyatt had over 50 yards in the slot. Given Tillman’s uncertain status, these three will need to be prepared to do it again on Saturday.
Vols on the Sideline
Star WR Cedric Tillman is questionable this week having undergone ankle surgery after an injury during game three against the Akron Zips. While the Vols need Tillman back this season, they don’t necessarily need him to beat LSU.
In Monday’s press conference, Coach Heupel said Tillman has been limited in practice. Even if he could play at LSU, he wouldn’t likely be at 100 percent, and it’s not really necessary considering the Vols have tougher opponents coming up in the next few weeks.
Also on the sideline this week is No.1 CB Warren Burrell. Burrell has struggled as Tennessee’s No.1 cornerback, mostly because he lacks the athleticism to handle his opponents’ top receivers. But what Burrell lacks in athleticism he makes up for in experience-that’s a problem that can’t be overlooked, or fixed overnight.
Tennessee vs. LSU: Vegas Odds
Right now momentum is high. Ego, though, should be kept in check. Yes, Tennessee beat Florida and yes they played well but it’s also true that they could’ve played better and should’ve won by a more comfortable margin than they did. It was a great game but it was also a harder fight than it had to be.
As such, the Vols should look to improve on key areas including improving pass coverage and preventing penalties. This isn’t as simple as it sounds; issues with pass coverage are directly related to the health of players like Warren Burrell. With key players out of the game and no real solutions, Tennessee has to adapt its roster to fill critical roles in the secondary until they can add more talent in the offseason. Issues with penalties are an easier fix, though. The team needs to sharpen their focus to prevent avoidable penalties, especially those pretty easily avoided like formational penalties.
Oddsmakers have confidence the Vols have been putting in the work. Per FanDuel Sportsbook, Tennessee is narrowly favored this week with a spread of -3. The moneyline is -150 and the over/under is 64.50.
This week, I’m taking Tennessee to cover the spread. Geaux Big Orange!
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