The Tigers are back in Atlanta for the first time since 2011 and, like they did eight years ago, LSU is going to have to go through the Georgia Bulldogs to be champions of the SEC.
Saturday afternoon is a pseudo-quarterfinal playoff game. LSU seems to be a lock to make the playoff regardless of outcome, but it’s best for the Tigers to leave absolutely no doubt they belong in the College Football Playoff; Georgia, on the other hand, needs to win Saturday to make it into the final four. To get us better familiar with the three-time defending SEC East champions is Georgia blogging lifer Senator Blutarsky.
1. The LSU offense has passed every test it’s faced this year. Florida was the stingiest defense Burrow and company faced at the time and LSU scored 48; a few weeks later, it was Auburn’s turn and LSU was still able to get production despite dreary conditions. If this were a video game, the Georgia defense would be the final boss. Which aspects of the Bulldog defense do you feel good about, and what gives you most pause?
The two most obvious areas of strength for Georgia’s defense are preventing the big play and defending the run. They’ve managed to do both in every game this season, and while LSU’s offense presents by far their biggest challenge, I still think they’ll have success in both areas. On the minus side, Georgia’s defense has been vulnerable to the slant pass all year long and the thought of what Burrow and those receivers will do over the middle is concerning, to say the least. I’d also expect Moss to have a good day; Georgia has a rich tradition of letting opposing tight ends feast on the Dawgs’ coverage.
2. What’s D’Andre Swift’s status for Saturday?
If he’s practicing this week, he’s playing. And he’s practicing this week.
3. The LSU defense infamously allowed Ole Miss to run for 400 yards a few weeks ago. By all accounts, Georgia has one of the best offensive lines in America. Swift or no Swift, do you expect Georgia to try and hammer a Tiger front seven that has had its issues stopping the run?
Yes, but not just because that might be an area of LSU defensive weakness. (Not that anyone is going to confuse Jake Fromm’s rushing skills with John Rhys Plumlee’s.) Georgia’s offense is built on establishing a running game because Kirby Smart believes in playing physical football and controlling time of possession as a means of supporting his defense. The best way the Tigers can affect that approach is to roll out to a big lead, forcing Georgia out of its comfort zone.
4. I can’t get a read on Jake Fromm this year. He’s cut his interceptions down from 7 to 3, but his completion percentage has dipped from 67 percent to 62. He’s gone four straight games completing less than half his passes, but he’s thrown 10 touchdowns and no picks in that stretch. What do you make of Fromm’s third year as the Bulldog’s starting quarterback?
It hasn’t been what we expected, that’s for sure. His mechanics haven’t looked as consistent. Also, I underestimated the effect of losing so much production from last season’s receiving corps. This year’s group has struggled with consistency, not just in terms of catching passes, but in route running and downfield blocking, as well. Fromm doesn’t trust this year’s bunch the way he did their predecessors. That being said, he hasn’t thrown an interception in eleven of Georgia’s games this season and the Dawgs have won all eleven. I doubt Kirby Smart thinks that’s a coincidence.
5. Georgia is missing a lot Saturday. Swift could be a no-go, leading receiver Lawrence Cager is probably done for the year after ankle surgery and George Pickens is suspended for the first half because of the shenanigans he got into with Tech. Can Georgia keep pace with the best offense in America?
Honestly, I don’t know. Every game against an FBS team has featured a stretch where Georgia’s offense has completely disappeared, with or without Cager. They’ve managed to survive for the most part so far, but facing that potent LSU offense, I worry that may be a pipe dream Saturday.
6. Georgia is 1-2 in its past three games in the Mercedes Benz Stadium. What will they have to do to make it 2-2?
Well, not playing Alabama helps. (I keed, I keed… I think.) This is going to sound clichéd, but playing a complete 60-minute game would be a terrific place to start. The Dawgs have yet to turn in such an effort all year. In a way, it’s strange to call an 11-1 season frustrating, but you watch this team play brilliantly in all phases for a quarter or two and then shake your head when things hit the rocks, because it’s obvious they’re capable of playing so much better. I do believe that a consistent Georgia team will give LSU all it can handle, but that’s easier said than done.