Posted on: November 29, 2011 12:45 pm
Edited on: November 30, 2011 5:23 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
GEORGIA WILL WIN IF: they can avoid giving LSU easy points. No kickoff returns for touchdown, no short fields following fumble giveaways, no pick-sixes or 60-yard bombs over the top. Simple, right?
Not against LSU, it's not; such is the Tigers' incredible strength in special teams and defense that they rank a mediocre 62nd in total offense ... and still a robust 13th in scoring offense at 38 points a game, better than all but seven other BCS conference teams. But as those low yardage totals indicate, putting together 8, 9-play drives that cover 75, 85 yards are not what LSU wants to do or what plays to their strengths. Even the 14-play, 77-yard march that got the Tigers on the board vs. Arkansas had to survive a botched option pitch and a near-interception from Jordan Jefferson to hit paydirt.
The Tigers can bang out those kinds of drives, of course, thanks to Spencer Ware and Michael Ford and the rest of LSU's pounding ground game. But Georgia can answer that with the nation's No. 6 rush defense, Jarvis Jones, John Jenkins, Christian Robinson and the rest. If Ware and Co. find some tough sledding somewhere between their own 20 and the end zone, is Jefferson good enough to repeatedly execute in the passing game -- against the nation's fourth-ranked secondary in opponent's QB rating, no less -- enough to put those usual 38 points on the board?
Probably not--which is why if Aaron Murray can protect the ball against Morris Claiborne and the rest of the LSU ballhawks, if the Dawgs can avoid getting burned in special teams, if Drew Butler can match Brad Wing inside-the-20 punt for inside-the-20 punt, if the Dawg secondary can keep Rueben Randle from shortcutting a long drive into a quick one, the Dawgs will have a chance. Those are big -- gigantic -- if's, of course. But that's where the Dawgs have to start.
LSU WILL WIN IF: they play their game. Georgia shouldn't be able to stay even in the special teams department when no one else has. Georgia shouldn't be able to run well enough to keep Murray out of the 3rd-and-8's in which Barkevious Mingo can tee off and Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu, and the rest of the defensive backs thrive. Georgia shouldn't be able to get their receivers free against that secondary. Georgia shouldn't be able to offensively overcome to kinds of holes Wing will put them in.
LSU is the No. 1 team in the country for a reason. Georgia's good, but are they so good that if LSU plays to their potential, they'll be able to win anyway? No.
THE X-FACTOR: When Arkansas went up 14-0, the immediate reaction was "how will LSU respond?" Those 14 points represented a deficit more than three times larger than their previous season high ... and it was still erased and then some before halftime. But that was at home, against a team with no ability to stop the LSU ground game, and they got the benefit of Mathieu's game-swinging punt return. Let's say the Bulldogs not only ride a surge of early energy and momentum to a two touchdown first half lead, but hold on to keep a narrow edge into the game's final 20 minutes. Then how does LSU respond? It's a de facto road game. It's against the best defense they've seen since Alabama. It's for the SEC title. Do they keep their unflappable 2011 cool in that situation, too? Or not?
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