Tennessee is trending down. LSU is trending up. And that’s the same general recent pattern in the teams’ rarely played matchups.
Of the original SEC schools, few have met each other with less frequency than the Tigers and Vols, who have played only 32 times over the years. In fact, they’ve faced off only eight times in the past 23 years and haven’t played at all since the conference expanded to 14 teams in 2012.
They meet Saturday night in Knoxville with LSU (7-3) looking to solidify a spot in a “good” bowl while UT (4-6) must win to have a shot at bowl eligibility. Betting odds for the LSU-Tennessee game have the Tigers as a 16-point favorite.
Tennessee leads 20-9-3 in the series, which began in 1925 with a 0-0 tie. The past four games in the series, though, have all gone in favor of the Tigers.
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Here’s how the past four have turned out:
October 15, 2011: LSU 38, Tennessee 7
What happened: This was a Les Miles-coached Tigers team on the road to the national title game against the Vols under Derek Dooley, and the outcome was a predictable Tigers rout. Jarrett Lee threw three touchdown passes and the Tigers’ defense totally contained the Tennessee passing game, holding Matt Simms to six completions. Eric Reid and Morris Claiborne both picked off passes, with Claiborne returning his interception 89 yards.
October 2, 2010: LSU 16, Tennessee 14
What happened: A crazy finish that might have been the defining sign that something was amiss with the Dooley era. Trailing 14-10, LSU drove to the 1 in the closing seconds with no timeouts but saw a snap sail away from Jordan Jefferson as the clock expired. Game over, right? Nope. The Vols had not 11, not 12, but 13 men on the field. That’s illegal. LSU got an extra play, Stevan Ridley scored and the Tigers emerged with a bizarre victory.
December 1, 2007: LSU 21, Tennessee 14
What happened: For the second time, LSU and Tennessee squared off in the SEC championship game. Playing with Ryan Perrilloux at quarterback in place of normal starter Matt Flynn, the Tigers dominated on the ground behind Jacob Hester’s 120 yards. But the deciding plays came on defense. With the Vols leading 14-13, Jonathan Zenon picked off an Erik Ainge pass and returning it for an 18-yard touchdown with 9:54 left in the game. Darry Beckwith sealed the victory by intercepting Ainge at LSU’s 7 with 2:42 left.
November 4, 2006: LSU 28, Tennessee 24
What happened: Another stunning finish? Another stunning finish. The Tigers outgained Tennessee 478 yards to 248, but trailed 24-21 entering the final drive because of four turnovers, including three interceptions from JaMarcus Russell. But Russell made up for those miscues by leading a 15-play, 80-yard march, finishing it off with a game-winning 9-yard touchdown pass to Early Doucet with nine seconds left and sending the fans at Neyland Stadium home angry.
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