Tigers will play with emotion, win at home vs. Vols
Posted: Monday September 26, 2005 11:58AM; Updated: Monday September 26, 2005 12:39PM
It's Monday Night Football, SEC-style. Hurricane Rita pushed back the much-awaited LSU-Tennessee showdown to tonight, and while the scene may not be as electric as a normal game day in Baton Rouge, it does promise to be moving. The game will be the first major sporting event in Louisiana since Hurricane Katrina, and the Tigers will pay tribute to the victims by wearing five additional stickers on their helmets: The Fleur-de-lis symbol, the Louisiana state flag and three bearing the shapes of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. For LSU coach Les Miles, the game marks his SEC debut and will go a long way toward showing if his Tigers are a national-title contender.
(10) Tennessee at (4) LSU
Monday, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Tiger Stadium (92,400)
JaMarcus Russell and the Tigers finally get a chance to play on their home turf.
Robert Laberge/Getty Images
With its dramatic, season-opening come-from-behind win over Arizona State, LSU showed it has tremendous resolve and fight. But can the Tigers put it all together for 60 minutes? Quarterback JaMarcus Russell has a flair for the dramatic -- he threw a game-winning 39-yard TD pass to Early Doucet on fourth-and-10 to beat ASU -- but he also has a tendency to force things and turn the ball over. He'll need to be steady against a stifling Tennessee D and limit negative plays. A veteran offensive line led by Andrew Whitworth will give Russell time to throw and will pave the way for explosive back Joseph Addai. As it proved in the Arizona State game, LSU can score, but can the Tigers play shutdown defense? Free safety LaRon Landry is a star. However, corners Ronnie Prude and Chevis Jackson are shaky. The front seven isn't as dominating as years past, but the onus will be on linemen Chase Pittman and Kyle Williams to stuff Tennessee's running game.
Let's start with the positive: Tennessee's defense is terrific, as good as any in the country. With linemen Jesse Mahelona and Jason Hall, linebackers Kevin Simon and Jason Mitchell and corner Jason Allen, the Vols have ample playmakers. But the Vols' offense has been abysmal, averaging a measly 12 points a game, and that won't get it done against LSU. It's not as if Tennessee doesn't have talent. Quarterback Erik Ainge has played well in stretches, Gerald Riggs is a steady back and Chris Hannon and C.J. Fayton are among a stable of capable receivers. If everything comes together for this unit, the Vols can be dangerous. It just hasn't happened yet.
Field conditions could play a major role. A wet, muddy field would hurt LSU more than Tennessee, because the Tigers are built around speed. But look for LSU to get a major emotional lift from playing at Tiger Stadium, where it has won 10 straight and gone 30-5 since 2000.