The 12th-ranked LSU (4-0, 2-0 SEC) Tigers will enter Saturday afternoon's match-up with Tennessee (2-2, 0-1 SEC) as a decisive favorite.
The Tigers sport an unblemished record and will be playing at home in Tiger Stadium, one of the most intimidating stadiums in college football.
LSU coach Les Miles is excited to play the Volunteers for the first time since the 2007 SEC Championship Game, where
LSU avoided a UT upset bid, winning 21-14. Miles is cautious not to overlook the Vols, given his history with UT's first-year head coach.
"We are looking forward to the next test, Tennessee," Miles said Monday at his weekly press conference. "They are 2-2 overall and obviously Derek Dooley, certainly we are very familiar with him. He was on our staff (under Nick Saban from 2000-04) and was the head coach at Louisiana Tech (when it played at LSU in 2007 and 2009).
"His guys were always well prepared, and his guys will be ready to play."
The Tigers' offense has struggled through its first four games this season, especially in the passing game. Junior quarterback Jordan Jefferson has been under scrutiny as the Tigers rank 115th of 120 FBS teams in passing offense.
"We have to be better at quarterback," Miles said. "Some of the things that Jordan Jefferson did (against West Virginia last Saturday) were exactly what we needed, yet we can improve his play as we can improve the play of a number of guys on that offensive side."
Despite the struggles through the air, Miles is pleased with the production he is getting in the running game. Junior Stevan Ridley has emerged as a bright spot for the Tigers after gaining just 272 yards during his first two years at LSU. Ridley is averaging 108.5 yards a game this year, good for third best in the SEC, and has scored three touchdowns.
With an offense still looking for an identity, the Bayou Bengals have relied heavily on their defense, led by junior cornerback Patrick Peterson.
Peterson is considered to be one of the top defensive players in college football and displays his talents in the return game as well. He has already returned two punts for touchdowns this year.
LSU fans have been hoping that Miles will insert Peterson into the sputtering offense, much like Vols fans wanted safety Eric Berry to get the ball in his hands during his UT career.
But for now, the self-proclaimed Heisman Trophy candidate will anchor a Tigers' defensive unit that leads the SEC in total defense, giving up only 254 yards per game, and ranks second in the conference in scoring defense, allowing just 12 points per contest.
The man in charge of that defense is long-time Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis. Holding the same title at LSU, Chavis spent 14 seasons heading up Vols' defenses and is in his second year with the Tigers.
LSU senior linebacker Kelvin Sheppard has the highest praise for Chavis and credits "Chief" for the development in his game.
"Coach Chavis is probably the best coach I have ever been around," Sheppard said. "You can see it in my game. My progression from my sophomore year to my junior year has been crazy. Now my progress is going even farther into my senior year."
Chavis was not retained by Lane Kiffin when he was hired in December of 2008, but he quickly found a home in Baton Rouge, La. Chavis played for the Vols from 1976-78 and will get his first chance to coach against his alma mater on Saturday.
"He was at Tennessee for 20-plus years, and they had great linebackers," Sheppard said. "Now he's brought those talents over here, and he is helping our team."
Miles is hoping the Tigers are prepared for Saturday and don't overlook the Vols, because he knows teams can't afford to not be ready to play in the SEC.
"Tennessee is a very physical team with good speed," Miles said. "We understand our work is going to be cut out for us. It is going to be a great test for us. Our football team must focus on that opponent and get ready to play."
Kick-off is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.