Rivalry Series: LSU vs. Tennessee

2011 updates and comments

This is already confusing enough due to the fact that it was written at different times over the years, so please click above for new comments about #1 teams in the series history.

As mentioned below, this is one of those series that isn’t really a rivalry, but with two SEC championship match-ups in the last 10 years and each of the last 4 games (played from 2005-2010) decided by a touchdown or less, there is a lot to talk about, at least in recent history.

Overall records

Tennessee now leads the overall series, 20-9-3.
Tennessee leads in Knoxville, 11-3-1.
Tennessee leads in Baton Rouge, 8-4-2.
LSU leads 2-0 in Atlanta (SEC Championships in 2001 and 2007).
Tennessee leads 1-0 in Houston (the 1972 Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl).

Longest winning. unbeaten streaks
Tennessee: winning streak, 10 (from 1934 to 1959); unbeaten streak, 13 (from 1934 to 1972).
LSU: winning streak, 4 (2006 to present).

Home/away streaks
UT @ LSU: 5, 1939-1952; unbeaten, 6, 1939-1964
LSU @ UT: 2, 2006 & 2011
UT at home: 9, 1934-1975; unbeaten, 10, 1925-1983
LSU at home: None

Biggest wins
Tennessee’s biggest win in the series was 28-0 in 1940.
LSU’s biggest win in the series was 38-7 in 2011, and that was the most points LSU scored in regulation in a win. LSU’s previous best win (and previous most points scored in regulation) was a 34-9 win, also in Knoxville, in 1988, the Tigers’ first win there.
(LSU’s only shutout win over Tennessee was 7-0 in 1933.)

Two of the three highest winning point totals overall were both in very close games. The 2000 overtime game (38) was LSU’s highest point total in a win, and Tennessee’s highest point total was in a 45-39 win in 1989. LSU tied the total of 38 in regulation in 2011.

In the 24 games between 1925 and 1993, LSU had only 3 wins and 3 ties against Tennessee. The teams did not play for the following 6 seasons, but since there has been more consistent play between the two (2000-2010), LSU has won 5 times in 7 games.

    October 5, 2010

(2010 game reactions)

“There is a place. Like no place on Earth. A land full of wonder, mystery, and danger! Some say to survive it: You need to be as mad as a hatter.”

–The Mad Hatter, “Alice in Wonderland”

{This version of the blog came out best. I don’t know why there is the spacing issue from the old blog.}

Since 18-year head coach Charles McClendon was relieved of his duties following the 1979 season, Les Miles is the first to come back for more after 5 seasons. It’s no wonder:

Click here.

Seriously, what is wrong with this man? I’m really starting to wonder if he is suffering from some kind of heavy-metal poisoning. How could such a person have left the Mad House for the Big House? (Insert “One Flew Over the Cuckoos’ Nest” reference here.)

I’m also reminded of a quote from another psychotic character in literary history: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player// That struts and frets his hour upon the stage// And then is heard no more: it is a tale// Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury// Signifying nothing.”


But as this post from the creamsicle-orange Rocky Top reminds us, the fatal mistake of Derek Dooley was trying to apply logic to the chaotic vagaries of what Les Miles manages to put on the field.

“Then, keep in mind that LSU is operating from a chaotic perspective. What’s the only thing more difficult than creating chaos? Responding to the person who has created the chaos in the first place and seems intent on creating more chaos. Doubt that? How well does the United States respond to Kim Jong-Il’s decision-making in North Korea? We have entire teams of geniuses at the CIA trying to decipher and respond to the decisions of a mad man dictator.

“Yet, we still have no idea what’s coming next. Our entire national policy toward North Korea is basically to stay out of their way. Les Miles is definitely the Kim Jong-Il of college football and Miles was in the midst of a Kim Jong-Il style implosion.

“The biggest flaw in Derek Dooley’s response? Trying to respond at all. At that point, you just get out of the way and watch the carnage.

“Even a day later Miles couldn’t make sense of what happened. Read this quote: “We didn’t need to exchange personnel,” Miles said. “The want to get other personnel on the field took precedence over the play call. We were not in position to execute the play that was called. The multiplicity of personnel created certainly some of the issues.”

Back to Dooley, was there some kind of time warp that descended over Tiger Stadium?

“Things happened fast and guys didn’t run off the field. The ball was snapped pretty quickly.”

Quickly compared to what? The earth completing a full rotation around the sun?

I know he was partly trying to say it wasn’t fair that LSU didn’t have things figured out when the players were sent onto the field, but it doesn’t matter what look LSU gives you or if they barely manage to snap the ball, you only get 11 players.

Just like Gary Crowton needs to realize that when your center has to snap the ball out of sheer desperation, it doesn’t matter what look you gave the defense.

Jordan Jefferson also needs to realize that at a certain point you can’t pay any attention to what the coaches are doing, you need to go up to the line and take the ball from the center (who maybe should have imparted his wisdom somehow). Against Ole Miss, Jefferson was telling everyone they needed to spike the ball, which can’t be done after the clock starts running with one second left. Why didn’t he do that this time? And don’t tell me Lee would have figured it out better. He didn’t even seem to know what a clock was for most of the game.

But at least Lee and Jefferson wouldn’t say something like this: “We had a chance to beat a really good football team in their house and they know that. They know we beat them at every phase of the game.” –Matt Simms

Matt, I wasn’t going to say anything bad about you, but if you really believe that, I’m surprised you got into El Camino (Community) College. If you don’t believe that and you were just being your charming self, stop before you become as annoying as your dad.

Every phase of the game? Did he mean time periods, because Tennessee didn’t win one quarter (there were three tied periods and LSU won the fourth, 9-7)? Tennessee was only ahead for about 11 minutes. Roughly half of the game was played with a tie score. Did he mean “facet,” because gaining yards would have to be a facet of a football game. LSU outgained Tennessee, 434-217 (that’s twice as many if you can’t do division).

I’m just grateful for whatever inkling in Miles caused him to do this:

“Miles had already tossed his headset aside, cutting him off from communication with offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, while he sought out an official on the field to see what the flag was for.

‘I had to call a play because I had nobody to talk to,’ Miles said.”

That block of text and the Simms quote are from the AP article as posted on ESPN,

Back to the Mad Hatter analogy:

“Left tackle and Michigan native Joseph Barksdale recalled how Miles helped him overcome homesickness when he arrived in Baton Rouge, inviting him to spend time with his family until he got comfortable.

“That really meant a lot to me because I don’t have any family” nearby, Barksdale said. “If it wasn’t for coach Miles, I wouldn’t be here. I’m way away from home and I was having a hard time adjusting to college life.”

As for Miles odd manner, Barksdale smiled as he reflected on the victory over Tennessee and said, “If I’m not mistaken, at the end of the latest, “Alice in Wonderland” movie, the Mad Hatter did his job and things ended well. So let’s hope that keeps up.””

By the way, Miles is the first LSU coach ever to record three wins (4 as of 2011) over Tennessee. I would have pointed that out here regardless, but credit to the TV crew for having the presence of mind to post that information rather than staring at the closest screeen in disbelief.

Nick Saban is second-best at 2-1 against the Vols.

    Other series history:

LSU/Tennessee series: not quite a rivalry

Filed under: CollegeFootball

Nov 30, 2007 06:22 PM edit

First of all, aside from injuries, I don’t plan to go into any great detail previewing the game this weekend. If that’s what you’re looking for, I recommend the blog by KDardis, who also has a new entry today about common opponents.

I will add this to my “rivalry series,” but since these teams don’t play every year and never did, and at least until recently, Tennessee dominated, most wouldn’t describe it as a rivalry.

However, with this being the second time the two have met in the SEC Championship, this will be the sixth meeting since 2000, after only six meetings from 1976 to 1999.

In the first 16 meetings, LSU was only 1-13-2. The one win was in the third game of the series in 1933.

In the Tigers’ first ten trips to Knoxville, they were only 0-9-1. The most heartbreaking of those was when the Tigers were ranked #1, having knocked off previously unbeaten Ole Miss the week before, in 1959. Despite eventually finishing 5-4-1, the Vols won the game, 14-13; and LSU, except for the Sugar Bowl re-match with Ole Miss, did not lose another game that season. The one tie in Knoxville for LSU was in the first game of the series in 1925.

Other ties were in 1964 and 1982, both in Baton Rouge.

LSU won in Knoxville for the first time in 1988. Then Tennessee won the next three games, all during losing seasons for LSU, to take an 18-3-3 lead in the series.

Since 2000, though, it has been back and forth, with an overtime win by each team and only one game (the 2001 SEC Championship) decided by more than 8 points.

I’m just going to list the games and their locations beginning in 2000:

2000–Baton Rouge–LSU, 38-31 (OT)
2001–Knoxville–Tennessee, 26-18
2001–Atlanta–LSU, 31-20
2005–Baton Rouge–Tennessee, 30-27 (OT)
2006–Knoxville–LSU, 28-24
2007–Atlanta–LSU, 21-14*
2010—Baton Rouge–LSU, 16-14*
2011-Knoxville-LSU, 38-7*

(*=added after blog was first posted)

A couple of comments about the 2001 SEC Championship and 2005 game.

These were both situations in which the normal starting quarterbacks missed most of the game.

After the 2001 game (hereafter the second one, not the first one), Philip Fullmer said, “I guess we really messed up and knocked their quarterback out.”

Matt Mauck took over the game. While posting a modest but efficient passing performance, Mauck posed a problem for opposing defenses by running. Mauck would go on to lead the Tigers to the national championship in 2003 after being injured himself most of 2002.

LSU would make a similar mistake against Tennessee in 2005.

The Tigers, after being delayed from starting the season by Hurricane Katrina, were forced to do some more waiting due to Hurricane Rita and Fullmer’s insistence that it would have been too dangerous to play the game as scheduled and his threatened forfeit. This is despite the fact that Rita was a less significant storm and Baton Rouge, an inland above-sea-level city, was never seriously threatened from it. Also odd was Fullmer’s argument that too few Tennessee fans would have been able to make the trip, but yet the game was rescheduled for a Monday.

Whatever the reason, LSU came out extremely motivated and jumped out to a 21-0 lead and the defense put such relentless pressure on Erik Ainge that he was knocked out of the game by halftime. Rick Clausen, who I suppose had something to prove against LSU, from which he had transferred (not having played for the Tigers), came off the bench and Tennessee out-scored LSU, who had apparently run out of steam, 24-3 in the second half to take the game to overtime.

Unlike Mauck at LSU, Clausen didn’t seem to be able to do much right at Tennessee afterward. The Vols would finish 5-6 and LSU would not lose again until the SEC Championship against Georgia.

To go back to the 2001 game, since Casey Clausen was then playing for the Vols and Rick was still at LSU, their younger brother Jimmy wore half of an LSU jersey and half of a Tennessee jersey.

The win by LSU knocked Tennessee out of an all-but-certain BCS title appearance. After a series of losses, the #2 slot was eventually filled by Nebraska, who had failed to even win its division. Miami thoroughly dominated the Huskers, leading many to believe their team (also including fans of Oregon, Colorado, or Texas) would have done better.

At any rate, injuries may play a role in this one as well. LSU still has a hobbled Glenn Dorsey, the other DT, Charles Alexander is out of the season, and QB Matt Flynn is questionable after hurting his shoulder diving for the corner of the end zone last week. Flynn’s replacement would be Ryan Perrilloux, yet another running quarterback.

On the other hand, diminutive speedster Trindon Holliday is reportedly improving and may be able to play; and last year’s all-SEC defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois, who has missed all season due to alleged academic dishonesty, was cleared to play.

To connect this with something KDardis wrote today, take three defensive lineman any other team expected to have in a season and see how many yards Arkansas gains on the ground against them.

(Factual notes are deleted here, since the updated version was inserted above)

SEC Championship significance

Tennessee and Georgia (1-1, 2003 and 2005) are the only teams LSU will have faced in its four SEC title appearances. Tennessee has also faced Mississippi St. (1-0, 1998 ) and Auburn (1-1, 1997 and 2004).

LSU has appeared in every SEC title game played during an odd year (and none in an even year) this decade. Many cite the fact that in every even year since the SEC Championship began, the Tigers travel to both Auburn and Florida and in that time have not won in both places in the same year.

The combined winning percentage of LSU (10-2) and Tennessee (9-3) is the worst in the history of the SEC championship game, which began in 1992. The two teams are 19-5 for a 79.2 percentage.

This is the first time both teams enter the game with at least 2 conference losses each and the first time the two teams enter with a total of 5 losses. Ignoring Arkansas’s entry in 2002 in lieu of Alabama, who was on probation, this is the first time that a team has entered with three losses since that 2001 LSU team, which is still the only (other) one to have played in the game with three conference losses.

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