You could very well determine that Saturday's SEC Championship Game between No. 2 LSU and No. 4 Georgia serves as its own playoff game before we learn everyone's fate come Sunday. When the Tigers and Bulldogs kick off on in Atlanta, both teams will be vying for plenty that will be at stake. LSU is aiming to keep its undefeated season alive while punching a ticket to the College Football Playoff. Meanwhile, Georgia will look to punch its second ticket in the past three seasons to the final four.

The Tigers offensive renaissance has been one of the top stories in college football this year. Heisman Trophy front-runner Joe Burrow has transformed the quarterback position with the program from a punchline to a power, with a little help from passing game coordinator and Broyles Award finalist Joe Brady. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs rode a stellar defense to their third straight SEC East title and enter this game banged up offensively.

Each of the last two SEC Championship Games have served as de facto national quarterfinals. So who wins this battle of top four teams ahead of the College Football Playoff? Let's take a closer look at what to expect and make some picks both straight up and against the spread.


LSU: Receivers Ja'Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson have eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark and have been the best receiving duo in the country. Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire has proven that he has what it takes to be a true No. 1 running back in the SEC both as a runner and as a receiver out of the backfield, which has been a big help for Burrow when secondaries pay extra attention to the downfield weapons. The biggest development lately has been the progression of the Tigers defense. They gave up just 4.28 yards per play to Arkansas two weeks ago and 2.82 to Texas A&M in the regular season finale. Is that a product of weak competition or the start of a trend? Alabama posted 7.96 yards per play and Ole Miss racked up 8.65 in the first two games of November. If the LSU defense has evolved into a force, look out Bulldogs.

Georgia: Two major storylines emerged from last week's win over Georgia Tech, and neither are positive. Star running back D'Andre Swift injured his shoulder and freshman wide receiver George Pickens will sit out the first half this week after getting into a fight against the Yellow Jackets. On top of that, quarterback Jake Fromm hasn't completed over 50% of his passes since the Florida game on Nov. 2. Luckily for Georgia, the defense has been a force all season. The Bulldogs have only allowed 20 or more points once this season -- the 20-17 overtime loss to South Carolina on Oct. 12. 

Viewing information

Date: Saturday, Dec. 7 | Time: 4 p.m. ET
Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium -- Atlanta, Georgia
TV: CBS | Connected TV: CBS All-Access
Live stream: | Mobile: CBS Sports App 

Game prediction, picks

It seems like everybody is on the Tigers minus the points, but the line really hasn't moved. There's a very good reason for it. Auburn's defense has been the only one to slow down this LSU attack this year, and the Bulldogs are able to follow a similar game plan. While they don't have the stud defensive linemen up front, they have a better -- and deeper -- secondary that can thrive with that same 3-1-7 alignment that Auburn had success with. The pressure will then fall on Fromm and Swift to play smart and play keep away from the Tigers. They will be able to do that to an extent, but Burrow will make a big play or two late to give LSU the win ... close. Pick: Georgia (+7.5)

Dennis Dodd
Jerry Palm
Tom Fornelli
Chip Patterson
Barton Simmons
Barrett Sallee
Ben Kercheval
LSU -7.5

Who wins Georgia vs. LSU? And what critical x-factor makes one side of the spread a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the spread you should jump on Saturday, all from the seasoned expert who has hit 10 consecutive spread picks on the Bulldogs, and find out.