LSU's Offense vs. Georgia's Defense
The Bulldogs are tough against the run and relatively porous against the pass. Georgia is tops in the SEC in run defense, allowing only 62 yards per game. That's - not a lot. LSU needs to run the football to open up the passing game for Lee. And LSU has the backs to do it. Charles Scott and Keiland Williams provide a potent rotation, along with Murphy and Holliday. By the second half, LSU's running game should still be relatively fresh, where the UGA defense will hopefully have tired a bit. Florida took the running game away by jumping to a huge early lead. If Georgia takes the running game away by force, the end result could be a long afternoon for Tiger fans.
Because, although Georgia isn't great in pass defense, LSU has some challenges throwing the football. Sure, on paper, LSU has the fourth best passing efficiency in the SEC. And Lee has, in places, been very good. But he's also thrown 7 picks, two for TDs. And the LSU receivers have dropped enough important passes to cause me to wonder about the validity of LSU's passing threat. One positive note in all of this is that LSU has not allowed a lot of sacks this year. If Lee can get enough time, and the receivers can hang onto the football, then the passing game might neutralize Georgia's stout run defense.
LSU's Defense vs. Georgia's Offense
Knowshon Moreno is a great offensive weapon. To paraphrase Les Miles during a couple of interviews this week, he's going to get some yardage today. He's elusive, fast, and can catch. And Georgia has a very good fullback who has NFL scouts looking intently at him. LSU has been inconsistent against the run this year, but has the potential to be stingy in the middle. Teams have, however, had some success taking advantage of over-pursuit around the ends. If LSU is able to keep Moreno under control, Georgia's offense will be significantly less effective. But certainly not anemic.
Matthew Stafford is the best QB LSU's defense will face during the regular season. Although not having the kind of dominant year that some expected (ala Colt McCoy at Texas), Stafford is a three year starter with a cannon for an arm and all the measurables that pro scouts look for. He's got a 10/5 TD/Int ratio, which is pretty good, and completes over 60% of his passes. He leads the conference in passing yards per game and is second only to Tebow in QB efficiency rating. Stafford has AJ Green to throw to, a tall and speedy freshman who leads the SEC in reception yards per game. Massaquoi is also still around and will draw some attention from the Tiger secondary. LSU has been vulnerable to the pass all year long, giving up an average of nearly 200 yards per game. LSU will need to disrupt Stafford in the pocket and put him on his back enough to keep him off his game. If the line can get four or five sacks in this game, and another eight hurries or so, then LSU's pass defense should be able to step up to the challenge. If Stafford has time to throw, it will be a long afternoon.
Although Brad Dalfrey has a reasonable punting average (43 ypp), his performance against South Carolina was scary at times. He'll have to do better this week. Because Georgia is frighteningly good and deep at punt returning. Georgia has the 4 of the top 10 punt returners in the SEC, with Prince Miller leading the pack (44.7 yard average on 3 returns). Altogether, Miller, Reshad Jones, Asher Allen, and Knowshon Moreno have averaged 24 yards per return. LSU's Trindon Holliday, the second leading punt returner in the SEC, averages 23 yards. There's absolutely no reason to punt the ball to any of Georgia's return men. If Dalfrey can manage it, he should angle for the sidelines every time.
The rest of the special teams play seems even.
LSU just doesn't lose much in Baton Rouge on a Saturday. In years past, day games were considered a hex at LSU. While noone really likes a day game (tailgating reasons, mostly), the hex has long been lifted. LSU is something like 10-2 in day home games lately. The last defeat LSU suffered at home on a Saturday was almost 30 games ago, to Florida I believe. So home field advantage is very real in Tiger Stadium.
LSU has had its share of penalties this year, but nothing compared to Georgia. The Bulldogs are by far the most penalized team in the SEC, with 10 flags for 80+ yards per game.
And, while LSU has it's share of dings and bruises, Georgia is suffering mightily right now with a lot of injuries and some players playing hurt.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. UGA is going to send the house against Lee and make him throw under pressure. Crowton's gameplan and the OL have to set Lee up with good, quick options so he can avoid throwing another pick-6. Lee needs to have a solid game. Not great. Just solid with no pick-6.
2. LSU needs to score >21 points. I don't think LSU's defense will be able to stifle Moreno, Stafford, Green and company. LSU needs to win the time of possession war and score in each quarter.
3. No UGA punt returns for TD. Quick scores by UGA will be tough to make up.
4. LSU needs to play with far fewer errors (turnovers, penalties, dropped passes) than in previous games. This is the week to put it all together.
LSU O vs. Georgia D: Toss up
LSU D vs. Georgia O: Georgia
Special Teams: Georgia
Other Stuff: LSU
My Call: The Vegas boyz have this one as LSU by 1, with a 40.5 over/under. What that really says is, they think Georgia is the better team, but Tiger Stadium is a tough place to visit. My Wrap Up agrees.
LSU 27, UGA 24 (Because, afterall, I'm a purple and gold homer.)