The No. 8, undefeated Vols are coming off a bye week and are looking to continue their momentum into another ranked matchup, this time against No. 25 LSU (4-1).
Tennessee has a handful of unique challenges to prepare for as it heads into its matchup with LSU this weekend on the road.
For starters, the environment. The Vols are going into a stadium notorious for being difficult to play in. The game also has an 11 a.m. CT kickoff, earlier than the Vols have played all season, but head coach Josh Heupel is embracing the early start.
"If you ask coaches everywhere, they say give me the earliest kickoff possible,” Heupel said. “For us, it's going to be a great environment. I'm sure it'll be a packed house. This is a tough place to play, but it's so much about us and our preparation (and) making sure that we handle things the right way.”
The second challenge is injuries. Vols’ star receiver Cedric Tillman could play this week, though it is unlikely. Tillman left the Akron game early with a high ankle sprain, and had surgery in the following days to speed up the healing process. He is now in the recovery stage.
It was also announced this week that starting defensive back Warren Burrell would miss the remainder of the season. He was the Vols’ best in a position that already lacks depth.
Luckily for Tennessee, its bye week came at the beginning of the gauntlet of the season, giving the team a chance to recover and rest.
“It's really important for your entire football team,” Heupel said. “During the course of a game week, you get so much into the scheme of things. It's important to reset and get back to some of those fundamentals. Those are the inches and the things that people don't see that add up to the big things."
After dropping its first game of the season, LSU has won four in a row with a pair of SEC wins already under its belt. The Tigers are a middle-of-the-pack team looking to make the jump, so they undoubtedly come into the game with a chip on their shoulder.
“They continue to find ways to win. They're a good football team,” Heupel said. “They're long, they're athletic on both sides of the line of scrimmage, and obviously have really good skill players too.”
Jayden Daniels is the maestro for LSU’s offense, which averages 35.6 points per game. The junior quarterback averages under 200 passing yards per game, but he gets much of his work done on the ground, averaging 64.2 rushing yards per game – he had 114 against Florida State.
“The quarterback run absolutely is a huge part of the football game,” Heupel said. “That can be in some read game, but also just as the pocket breaks down or he goes through his progression, his ability to escape.”
Tennessee saw a mobile quarterback against Florida in Anthony Richardson, and the Vols made him pass. Putting pressure on the quarterback will be a key again this week.
Though Tennessee has already seen two ranked teams this season, the Vols aren’t taking their foot off the gas pedal for Saturday’s contest.
“The way they play and compete no matter what the scoreboard looks like, you have to be prepared for their best for 60 minutes,” Heupel said. “They are a resilient team.”
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