College Football Preview: Focus On LSU v. Tennessee

The SEC spotlight falls on Tennessee Saturday, where the Vols (No. 8 in the national polls) will entertain No. l 3 LSU in the only matchup of ranked teams on the SEC slate this weekend.

The game is a big one for Tennessee (3-1 in league play, 7-1 overall) because the Vols are one of the many one-loss teams still hoping to run the table the rest of the way and somehow make it to the BCS title game. Teams with two losses, like LSU (2-2, 6-2) are already out of that discussion.

That said, Saturday’s tussle is very important to the Bayou Bengals as well. Fair or not, there’s a feeling around Baton Rouge that this week’s trip to Tennessee is a defining moment for the LSU program, it’s quarterback and head coach.

The questions haunt LSU: Can QB JaMarcus Russell win the big road game? Can Tiger head coach Les Miles overcome the stigma that fans have attached to him – a coach who took Nick Saban’s leftover talent and then underachieved with it?

Russell, a junior from Williamson High in Mobile, has great numberfs for the season – 135-for-194 in passing for 1,190 yards and 15 touchdowns. He has thrown just four interceptions in the 194 attempts – however, all four of the picks came in the two games the Tigers lost, to Auburn and Florida.

The game, on paper, looks to be an entertaining offensive showcase. LSU and Tennessee rank first and second, respectively, in scoring in the SEC. Tennessee, behind QB Erik Ainge, leads the SEC in passing offense and total offense, with LSU’s Russell right behind him in second place. LSU and Tennessee are two of the 12 teams in the nation converting on at least one-half of their third-down conversions. And if the Vols are trailing heading into the fourth quarter, they certainly shouldn’t panic. Tennessee has overcome fourth-period deficits in each of its past three games to win.

Other league games on tap this week include Arkansas State (5-3) at No. 6 Auburn (8-1, 5-1), Mississippi State (2-7, 0-5) at Alabama (6-3, 2-3), Florida (7-1, 5-1) at Vanderbilt (4-5, 1-4), Georgia (6-3, 3-3) at Kentucky (4-4, 2-3), Northwestern State (4-4) at Ole Miss (2-7, 1-5) and Arkansas (7-1, 4-0) at South Carolina (5-3, 3-3).

This week’s college football TV schedule kicks off tonight with an armed services special – Air Force at Army – at 7 p.m. on ESPN2. Saturday’s weekend TV lineup, other than pay-for-view is as follows:

Missouri at Nebraska, 11 a.m. (ABC)
Virginia at FSU, 11 a.m. (WB)
Wofford at Georgia Southern, 11 a.m. (CSS)
Baylor at Texas Tech, 11 a.m. (FSNS)
Maryland at Clemson, 11 a.m. (ESPN2)
Ball St. at Michigan, 11 a.m. (ESPNU)
Miss. St. at Alabama, 11:30 a.m. (Lincoln Financial)
North Carolina at Notre Dame,1:30 a.m. (NBC)
TCU at UNLV, 2 p.m. (VS)
LSU at Tennessee, 2:30 p.m. (CBS)
Kansas St. at Colorado, 2:30 p.m. (FSNS)
Ohio St. at Illinois, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Purdue at Michigan St., 2:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
Washington at Oregon, 2:30 p.m. (TBS)
La. Lafayette at Troy, 6 p.m. (CSS)
Southern Cal. at Stanford , 6 p.m. (FSNS)
Oklahoma St. at Texas, 6 p.m. (TBS)
Boston College at Wake Forest, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
Georgia Tech at N.C., 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
Arkansas at S.C., 6:45 p.m. (ESPN)
Virginia Tech at Miami, 7 p.m. (ABC)

Sunday’s ESPN game at 7 p.m. will feature Southern Miss at Memphis.