At first glance the LSU Tigers get the overwhelming nod for victory from the media, sports analyist and the non bias fan. Do the Penn State Nittany Lions, a "Big-Ten" team have the necessary goods to compete with the LSU Tigers from the mighty "SEC." Well Vegas seems to thinks so the Lions are favored by two.
Here's the breakdown:
Tigers Jordan Jefferson, the true sophomore has started 13 games, has a career record of 9-4 and is 9-3 on the season. He has an impressive touchdown to interception ratio at 16-6 a 62.1 percent completion percentage and has thrown for 1964 yards on the season.
Penn State's Daryll Clark, the senior Lions quarterback has been the starter for two seasons and has a record of 21-4. He has a touchdown to interception ratio at 23-10 a 61.9 percent completion percentage and has tossed for 2,787 yards on the season. Daryll has passed for over 5500 yards in his career. He also has seven rushing TD's on the season.
So how did they hold up in their biggest games?
Jefferson has a bigger resume for competition taking on at the time number one Florida and number three Alabama. In the two games Jefferson went a combined 21-33 (64 percent) for 210 yards two touchdowns and only one interception.
While Clark went to battle against at the time No. 5 Iowa and No. 16 Ohio State (now ranked eighth). Clark combined for 24-60 (40 percent) for 323 yards with one passing and one rushing touchdown along with four interceptions.
The quarterback conclusion:
Both signal callers were less than impressive while playing against their highest ranked opponents. Based on experience and performance on the season Clark gets the nod here even though Jefferson has played better in bigger games the difference is not great enough to elevate him past the senior Clark.
The Tigers' running back situation is looking grim. Charles Scott and Keiland Williams are both injured and it is doubtful that they will be able to play against the Lions. The third back is Stevan Ridley a sophomore who has 33 carries, 167 yards and two touchdowns on the season. Ridley only has 45 attempts in has college career.
Penn State's running back Evan Royster is having a nice career with the Lions. On the season he has gained 1,128 yards on 188 attempts. He averages 5.9 yards per carry, 92 yards per game and has six touchdowns on the year. The speedy Stephfon Green Penn State's number two back has 301 yards on the season, 3 touchdowns, and has big play potential.
The running back conclusion:
Penn State has the clear advantage here. Green the number two back has twice the carries with nearly twice the yards as Ridley. Meanwhile Royster has carried the ball over 460 times in his collegiate career. The junior Royster is considering leaving early for the NFL.
The Tiger's top receivers are Branden Lafell and Terrance Toliver. Lafell is the lone senior receiver on either squad. He has started the last three years and has 2430 yards with 24 touchdowns in his time with LSU. On the season he has an impressive 10 touchdowns and has totaled 705 yards.
Branden abuses corners with his route running abilities and blocks like Hines Ward. If you don't believe that ask Zach Smith from Mississippi State, he's probably still feeling it years later. On the other side of the ball is Terrence Toliver a 6 foot 5 inch junior in his second season of starts. He has 654 yards on year with three touchdowns. He also has big play ability and causes corners grief with his height.
Penn State's receivers are all in their first year of starts, Derek Moye, Graham Zug and Chaz Powell. Moye has 45 catches on the year for 732 yards with 5 touchdowns. The 6 foot 5 inch sophomore has good hands and uses his height advantage over corners as he has an impressive average of 16 yards per catch.
Graham Zug has 549 yards on the year and has the most touchdowns catches out the Lions receivers with seven. Graham is good at getting open and can confuse opposing defenses. Chaz Powell was injured in the last game of the season and is listed as questionable, he is the Lions deep threat.
The receiver conclusion:
Penn State's receiving core has been impressive considering the amount of experience they have. Clark lost all of his receivers from a year ago to the NFL but has managed to put up more yards this season.
It should be dually noted that PSU's tight end Andrew Quarless is an excellent receiver with 448 yards on the season. The battle is very close when you add Quarless into the mix. That said LSU's receivers are just to talented to not give the thumbs up here, the Tiger's win this war.
The LSU defense is a vicious bone crushing squad. They only allow an average of 16 points per game which ranks them 12th in the nation and remember that's going against SEC teams. The Tigers also rank 29th against the pass and 44th against the run.
They have a very talented secondary which includes Chad Jones who is one of the top secondaries in the nation. Linebacker Sheppard has 103 tackles on the year. Nevis and Alem, both on the defensive line, have combined for over 150 tackles.
Penn State's defense is lead by some of the top linebackers in the country in Navorro Bowman and Sean Lee. The junior Bowman Is projected to go in the top tear of the first round of the draft. Linebacker Josh Hull leads the team with 110 tackles.
The Lions rank fourth in the nation in points per game with an average of 11.8. They also rank 10th in rushing and 19th in passing. That said the weak part in PSU's defense is the secondary as they had to replace nearly everyone from the prior year.
The defensive conclusion:
If these teams where to switch conferences Penn State would not be near as good as LSU. Penn State has a good defense but there are too many young spots. The Tigers get the check mark here.
Penn State's is in trouble on this one. LSU could possible have the best unit in the country. Trindon Holliday is ranked second in the nation with a big 17.7 yards average in punt returns he also returns kickoffs at an average of 23.7 yards.
The punter Helton is solid with an average of 40.5 yards per kick. Place kicker Josh Jasper has converted all of his extra points 32/32. He is 10/11 from 39 yards and in and 6/8 from 40 yards and out with a long of 52.
As for the Lions, their special team unit is the weakest part of their team. Senior punter Jeremy Boone is the highlight of the squad averaging 43.5 yards per punt. Chaz Powell had a respectable year returning kickoffs with an average of 24.4 yards (but remember he's questionable).
Collin Wagner the lions field goal kicker has struggled. While he has connected on all his extra point tries 45/45 he has only knocked through 61.1 percent of his field goal attempts. Wagner has hit only one field goal past 40 yards this season (47 yards) making him 1/5. The Lions punt and kickoff coverage have also been very suspect in giving up large gains.
The Special teams conclusion:
There is no question that LSU has a huge advantage here the Tigers pummel the Lions in this category.
Both Joe Paterno and Les Miles are very good bowl coaches. Miles is 4-0 at LSU and 5-2 in his coaching career. Paterno has won more bowl games than any other coach with a record of 23-11-1.
Penn State has not beat a ranked opponent all year. That said who has LSU beat? Well they beat Georgia a team that is now ranked past 40 (7-5). Neither team really has a signature win under their belt. Expect the Tigers to have wonderful field position all game with Trindon Holliday returning punts and PSU trying to stop him.
Lafell and Toliver are going to cause havoc on the young PSU secondary and Ridley will have a tough time running on the Penn State defense. On the other side Paterno has been known to up the reins a bit in bowl games. PSU will not be conservative as it usually is in big games during the regular season.
Whatever the case, LSU's defense will be too much for the lions. When Penn State has faced good defenses this year they struggled severely. Scoring only 10 points against Iowa and seven against Ohio State. Expect this game to be very close at half time and for LSU to pull away in the second half.
With the help of LSU's special teams and their receivers matched up against the young secondary of PSU the Tigers will be able to put points up on the board. On the Flip side if Penn State's QB Daryll Clark can play well and the special teams can keep the ball out of Holliday's hands the Lions could easily win this game.
PSU - 13
LSU - 24