Pasquali’s Pix: Dawgs, Vols to pass last test before November collision

Tennessee Athletics photo by Avery Bane / Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker and the Vols shredded LSU 40-13 on Oct. 8 in Baton Rouge, but the Tigers have bounced back with wins over Florida and Ole Miss and are tied with Alabama for first place in the SEC West Division.

If you predicted before this football season that LSU would be controlling its Southeastern Conference Western Division fate entering November, you're smarter than I am.

If you had Brian Kelly's Tigers in this position when they trailed Tennessee at home 37-7 in the third quarter less than three weeks ago, you're way smarter.

What does Kelly think of his maiden voyage in the SEC that already has surpassed expectations with a month to spare?

"I don't know if surprised is the right word," Kelly said Wednesday. "When you take over a job and you know that there are challenges, you don't know how your team is going to be able to get to that level quick enough. I think what's surprising to me is that our guys have been able to adapt to an entirely new system of doing things in such a short period of time.

"I never looked at it as whether I would be surprised in November if we were playing meaningful games. They were all going to be meaningful games in some sense, but what I'm surprised about is how these guys have adapted to such a change in how we do things on a daily basis."

Since getting thumped 40-13 by the Volunteers, the Tigers have responded with double-digit wins over Florida, 45-35, and Ole Miss, 45-20, to post a 4-1 league record that matches Alabama. Both LSU and the Crimson Tide are off this weekend before colliding next Saturday night in Baton Rouge, giving the SEC quite the meaningful doubleheader with Georgia hosting Tennessee that afternoon.

"This is why I came to LSU, but there is more to come," Kelly said. "This will be obviously an exciting atmosphere, but I don't want our fans to think that this is the first and last event like this at Tiger Stadium.

"We expect to be playing in a lot of these games, but we're excited. I told our players, 'You created this by what you've done on the field.' It's a privilege to play in these games."

LSU's stunning turnaround from the 5-5 and 6-7 seasons that followed its 2019 national championship has transpired despite the Tigers being outscored 54-10 during the first quarter of SEC games.

"We've looked at virtually everything, from the bus ride in to what we serve for the pregame meal," Kelly said. "We think it's much more mental than it is physical, and we just need to really focus on not making those mental mistakes early on in games. We know that we're physically able to do things in order to be successful, but clearly we can't continue to do that.

"Thank God they don't call the game after the first quarter, or we wouldn't be where we are."


Mississippi State coach Mike Leach when asked how Alabama's Bryce Young compares to other quarterbacks he's seen through the years: "I've seen better ones, but most guys are worse."


Several coaches on Wednesday's SEC teleconference were asked whether they would have suspended Jermaine Burton after the Alabama receiver struck a female Tennessee fan during the frenzied celebration at Neyland Stadium on Oct. 15. Not many bit on the topic.

"I'm not big into hypotheticals there," Florida's Billy Napier said. "I'm not aware of all the information, and I think those decisions are really difficult when you're not right in the middle of it. I don't have a comment on that.

"I've got a lot more things to worry about than somebody else's problems."

Pasquali's Pix

Ohio State at Penn State: The Buckeyes are the only team nationally to be perfect in the red zone, scoring on all 36 trips with 31 touchdowns. Buckeyes 34, Nittany Lions 21.

Arkansas at Auburn: Tigers coach Bryan Harsin has almost made it to November. Hogs 38, Tigers 27.

UTC at Furman: The Mocs are outscoring foes 62-3 in the fourth quarter. Mocs 28, Paladins 23.

Georgia Tech at Florida State: At some point, Seminoles coach Mike Norvell is going to have to address that 12-16 record. Seminoles 30, Yellow Jackets 17.

Florida vs. Georgia: The Bulldogs led the nation in scoring defense last year, allowing 10.2 points per contest. This season, they're allowing 9.1 points a game. Bulldogs 35, Gators 10.

Missouri at South Carolina: Who needs the Iron Bowl, Egg Bowl or a Cocktail Party when you have the Mayor's Cup? Gamecocks 31, Tigers 22.

Kentucky at Tennessee: The Volunteers aim to become college football's first team to conquer five ranked foes. Vols 37, Wildcats 26.

Ole Miss at Texas A&M: Lane Kiffin displayed a nice backhanded compliment Wednesday, describing the Aggies as "one of the five best rosters in all of college football." Aggies 20, Rebels 17.

Other picks:

Utah 35, Washington State 28

N.C. State 29, Virginia Tech 16

TCU 38, West Virginia 31

Syracuse 26, Notre Dame 25

Boston College 24, UConn 9

Virginia 27, Miami 24

Oregon 42, California 17

Kansas St. 30, Oklahoma St. 23

Wake Forest 23, Louisville 20

Illinois 31, Nebraska 22

USC 28, Arizona 19

Michigan 45, Michigan State 6

North Carolina 34, Pittsburgh 21

UTEP 33, Middle Tennessee 30

Cincinnati 32, UCF 27

Texas Tech 37, Baylor 34

UCLA 20, Stanford 13

Last week:

Winners — 21

Cristobals — 4

Pasquali is 166-34 overall (83.0%) this season.

Contact David Paschall at