Which LSU defense shows up Saturday? Will it be the swiss cheese model that Arkansas pounded, or the impacted colon model that Virginia Tech just couldn't pass through? I think the answer to that question will have a lot to do with the outcome of this game. That, and the LSU QB situation.
LSU DEFENSE: Tennessee will score on LSU's defense. Ainge has been playing well, and the Vols have a very good offensive line. I think Pelini will make them prove they can protect against the LSU front four, which I think the Vols will be able to do. Then, Pelini will start bringing the heat and force Tennessee to run the football. The Vols are averaging about 150 ypg, and LSU hasn't exactly been great lately at stopping the run (understatement alert). However, Arian Foster is not McFadden, nor is he Ole Miss' Brent Schaeffer. If LSU can shut Ainge down, 150 yards rushing won't be nearly enough anyway. Look for a big game from Steltz and Chad Jones, and hopefully from Pittman and Jackson as well.
VOL DEFENSE: Tennessee has, statistically, the second-worst defense in the conference. Only Ole Miss allows more yardage and only Kentucky allows more points. If LSU is able to protect the QB (whoever shows up) and present a balanced attack, they'll score close to 50. Look for the Vols to take risks to get at Flynn/Perrilloux, hoping that they won't be poised or accurate enough to make them respect the offense. Our O-line has been OK at protection, but not great. And even though the Tigers haven't been sacked a LOT this year, Flynn has had to throw on the run ... A LOT.
I hate to even mention special teams play. This, like penalties and a bad string of interceptions, could keep the Vols in the game and possibly even win it for them. Thankfully, the Vols have only returned one punt for a TD this season and zero kickoffs. Hopefully, they won't improve that stat. But against LSU's "coverage by colander", you never can tell.
LSU QUARTERBACK: How hurt is Matt Flynn? And if he's too hurt to throw effectively, should he even play? The Vols will figure out five minutes into the game if he's too gimpy to throw. If Perrilloux plays, will he be able to pull a Matt Flynn vs. Miami impersonation and lead the offense, business like, in a relatively error-free effort? Will he get a bunch of delay of game penalties and fumble the ball, or throw into coverage (not that Flynn hasn't done that as the starter)? Quarterback is a big question in this game.
Then, of course, there's the coaching circus. That should help...
My gut feel - which has been piss poor lately - tells me that LSU will jump on the Vols early and then hold on for an easy win. Tennessee's defense won't be able to keep the LSU offense off the field enough to give their own offense sufficient chances for big plays. And Tennessee will turn the ball over more than LSU, causing an even tougher problem for the Vol defense. The only mitigating factor could be the LSU penalty circus - if that shows up in full force, then give Tennessee 9 of LSU's points and call it 38 - 36.
Either way, LSU wins and prays like hell that West Virginia overlooks Pittsburgh....ROWR! (Don't hold your breath now, ya hear!)