LSU Football: Five Tigers Who Will Shine Vs. Tennesseee
The 12th-ranked LSU Tigers (4-0, 2-0) host the Tennessee Volunteers (2-2, 0-1) on Saturday afternoon in Death Valley.
On paper, the Tigers have the advantage over Tennessee in all three phases of the game. The Volunteers offense struggled against better teams (Oregon and Florida); the defense has allowed 108 points in its last three games, and Tennessee has the SEC's worst kick and punt return units.
So here are five LSU players who will have big statistical days against the Vols.
No. 5 Stevan Ridley, RB
The junior running back is the third-leading rusher in the SEC, averaging 108.5 yards a game. Ridley has not fumbled the ball since losing two against UNC in the season opener.
Tennessee's defense is allowing 141.5 rushing yards a contest, ranked 10th in the SEC and 61st overall in the FBS.
The Tigers offensive line should be able to open running lanes for Ridley to exploit and sustain long drives. The key for LSU is to finish those drives with touchdowns, not field goals.
No. 4 Russell Shepard, WR
The sophomore wide receiver has been quiet the past two games. After scoring three touchdowns on 16 touches for 145 yards against UNC and Vanderbilt, he has only gained 47 yards on 10 touches and no touchdowns versus Mississippi St. and West Virginia.
Shepard should break out of his slurp on a Vols secondary prone to poor tackling, giving up big plays and permitting 221 passing yards a game, ninth in the SEC and 72nd nationally.
The Vols defense has a conference worst three sacks this season. So even with a inconsistent Jordan Jefferson at quarterback, he should have time to find Shepard for one or two touchdowns.
No. 3 Kelvin Sheppard, LB
The senior linebacker has recorded 38 tackles through four games, good for third among SEC defenders.
Sheppard heads a rush defense that yields a SEC low 2.2 yards per attempt, while Tennessee generates 4.5 yard per rush, 10th-best in the conference.
Expect Sheppard to penetrate a young Vols offensive line and get double digit tackles on Saturday.
No. 2 Drake Nevis, DT
The senior defensive tackle recorded 3.5 sacks against UNC and Vanderbilt, but has been shutout versus Mississippi St. and West Virginia.
In fact, LSU only has one sack in the past two games after getting 10 in the first two contests.
Expect LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis to turn Nevis and the rest of the Tigers defenders loose on Vols QB Matt Simms. Tennessee has allowed a SEC worst 14 sacks this season.
Nevis should at least two sacks against an inexperienced Vols O-line on Saturday.
No. 1 Patrick Peterson, CB
The junior corner back and punt returner has become a dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate.
On defense, Peterson (who has two interceptions) will likely be matched up against Vols go-to WR Gerald Jones, who missed the last three games due to surgery to repair a broken bone in his left hand.
The Vols only have a 19 percent success rate (11-of-58) on third-down conversions, ranking last in the SEC and 119th out of 120 FBS teams.
That means Peterson will get plenty of punt return opportunities. He has already returned two punts for touchdowns, and his 28.1 yards average is second best in the nation. His 31.7 yards average on kickoff returns is third-best in the SEC.
I see Peterson getting well over 200 return yards and another touchdown versus Tennessee. Just don't expect him to strike the Heisman pose again.