The team that takes the field on Saturday will boast one of the best passing offenses in the SEC, lead by a senior QB who will certainly be drawing an NFL paycheck next year. Despite the aerial attack, the team's best offensive player is their star sophomore running back, who is arguably the best back in the SEC, maybe the country. The defense has looked shaky, but it has plenty of talent on hand though it is inexperienced due to massive defections from last year's team. All of it is controlled by a much-maligned head coach who can't shake the naysayers despite consistent excellence.
So... am I talking about LSU or Georgia?
These teams have a lot in common on the surface, though we can push the mirror image analogy too far. They are in different places right now. Georgia's loss to Clemson means that one more loss effectively kills their national title hopes before the leaves turn. LSU doesn't want to lose this game of course (stellar analysis there, Poseur!), but a loss between the hedges doesn't really do too much to this season other than make people stop writing "LSU is the best team in the country" type of articles.
This is a big game. Two top ten teams, legendary programs, and conference rivals squaring off on national television. Even GameDay will bring their travelling circus to be a part of the fun. I don't want to say this isn't a big game, but as far as big games go, this one is not as big as the other ones these teams will play, or have already played.
A win means a lot, but a loss doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot. These two fanbases actually kind of like each other, as we bond over our mutual hatred of Auburn and the fact that we don't really play each other a whole heck of a lot. They've got great music, we've got great food. We're like the chocolate and peanut butter of the SEC. Let's get together and make some tailgating magic.
As for the game, Georgia knows a lot more about itself than we know about LSU. Georgia has already played two monster games against top ten caliber teams and came out of that gauntlet with a win and a loss. It was a narrow loss, but those don't go in a separate column. However, I feel it is safe to say that we know what kind of team Georgia is: they have a tremendous traditional offense and a defense that is... well, let's call it a bit of a liability. It's not Texas A&M and their patent pending Matador Defense, but this is a unit that is giving up yards and points in bunches.
We think we know who LSU is at this point, but this team is more like a Polaroid that is still developing than the final picture.* You can see the shapes and colors, but it still kind of looks like a blob. A lot of this uncertainty is due to the fact that LSU is yet to play a team of Georgia's caliber (or of the caliber Georgia has already played).
*Ed. Note: Kids, ask your parents what a Polaroid is.
LSU fans still aren't used to this whole "competent passing attack" thing, and I'm not sure we fully trust it. It's just been so long since LSU could go into a third and medium and be reasonably confident that the team could pass for a first down. Jeremy Hill looked like a monster against Auburn, but let's be honest, is that because he was playing Auburn? Georgia doesn't boast the stoutest defense in the world, but I also don't think we can just pencil in Hill for 150 yards on 20 carries.
The real question, however, is the defense. LSU has raced out to a 21-0 lead in three straight games against teams of varying quality. As soon as the team took a three touchdown lead, the defense has started to give up yards and points in bunches. There's plenty of ways to look at this.
ONE. The defense packed it in. Chavis went vanilla, but the games were essentially in hand and the defense played like it. There's absolutely no reason to worry, this defense is the team that shuts down teams in the early goings, not the team that lets them back up off the mat in the late goings.
TWO. The defense has serious issues with depth. Chavis relied heavily on the same defensive tackle pairing pretty much all game against Auburn, which is very unlike the rotation heavy defense we usually play. This shows the team's lack of depth, which teams start to exploit as our defense gets tired. In a close game, a good team is going to beat our defense in the fourth.
THREE. Hey, we are still figuring out our best eleven! Chavis tried to get Micah Eugene on the field, but we can see that he's not the free safety and he won't start against Georgia, we hope. Tre'Davious White has now replaced Collins as the starting corner. We're still trying to figure out our best linebacker combination and how to get Kendell Beckwith on the field. That's what these first four games were for. Don't panic, the team is just young guys getting experience, and they are ready to unleash the fury against Georgia.
FOUR. The defense has real problems with spread offenses and mobile quarterbacks. Nick Marshall was able to hurt the defense by getting to the corner consistently. He did more damage with his legs than his arm. TCU couldn't do anything against LSU until Boykin came in. His mobility gave our defense fits. Aaron Murray doesn't fit this mold, nor does AJ McCarron. OK, we need to worry about Ole Miss and Texas A&M, but this defense should be fine this week.
FIVE. Invent your own!
Any of these interpretations, or any combination of them is perfectly valid. Take a little from column A, a dash from column C, and a bunch from column B. The thing is, we just don't know at this point. We're making guesses. It's an educated guess, but it's still a guess.
This week ,we find out if LSU is a national title contender. I'll admit that this is the most baffled I've ever been by a Les Miles team. I just don't know what kind of team we have just yet. But I think I'll know by the end of the day on Saturday. That alone is exciting.
So grab a bowl of gumbo, crank up the 1980s era REM, and let's find out who we are.