Posted by Jerry Hinnen
LSU WON: The No. 1 team in the country wasn't quite as sharp as they have been in previous weeks ... and they still won by a full 31 points in one of the SEC's most hostile venues against a desperate Volunteer team. Short-field touchdown drives of 5 and 36 yards gave the Tigers a 14-0 first-half lead, and that was all the points the typically-stout LSU defense (237 total yards allowed, zero Tennessee second half points) would need.
WHY LSU WON: The usual litany of 2011 Tiger positives: no turnovers (their fourth straight game without a giveaway), 259 punishing yards on the ground, a red zone offense that scored 31 points -- four touchdowns, one field goal -- in five attempts. LSU has been a model of brutal efficiency all season, and by scoring those 31 points on just 383 total yards, they were again.
But when it comes to Tyrann Mathieu, Morris Claiborne, Eric Reid and the rest of the LSU secondary, there's nothing "efficient" about them. As a unit, they held Matt Simms to a miserable 6-of-20, 128-yard, zero touchdown, two-interception performance. Individually, Claiborne's spectacular weaving 90-yard interception return -- taking the ball from the LSU 5 to the Volunteers' 5 -- set up the first LSU touchdown and put the Tigers in control. Alabama's secondary may have the better numbers and be closer to a total "lockdown" unit, but no set of defensive backs in the country is more explosive.
WHEN LSU WON: Already down 24-7, Tennessee took their first drive of the second half to the LSU 30. But a terrible option play on second down left the Vols in a 3rd-and-17 hole, and the drive would end in a punt ... albeit a punt that pinned the Tigers at their 1. Unfortunately for Tennessee, that punt would only be the prelude to a thumping 16-play, 99-yard drive Jordan Jefferson capped with a 3-yard option run for the score. At 31-7 and with nearly 7 minutes already gone from the fourth quarter clock, at that point a Vol comeback went from "miraculous" to "flat-out impossible."
WHAT LSU WON: As well as Tennessee played -- loss or not, this was a better outing for the Vols than their Georgia or Florida games -- a road trip like this one was almost certainly the highest hurdle remaining for the Tigers to clear before the Game of the Century of the Year against Alabama. All that remains between LSU and taking a spotless record into Tuscaloosa Nov. 5 is a home game against Auburn ... and a bye week.
WHAT TENNESSEE LOST: Not much--with Simms readjusting to being on the field, the running game still a work-in-progress, and the thin front seven bound to wear down in the face of the LSU ground attack, this was never going to end well for the Vols. Getting through this game and next week's tilt with the Tide without any other major injuries -- and the improvement in the ground game as a bonus -- would actually be something of a win.