For the second time in four years, LSU is going to take on Georgia for the SEC Championship.
Historically speaking LSU’s had the advantage over Georgia in this particular matchup. The Tigers are 3-1 against the Dawgs when they’ve played for the SEC Championship and neither game has been particularly close (34-13 in 2003, 42-10 in 2011, and 37-10 in 2019).
But that was then and this is now and I’m sorry to report that Joe Burrow, Justin Vincent, or the 2011 LSU defense won’t be walking through the door Saturday afternoon. The Tigers are massive—ahem— underdawgs (sorry, sorry trying to delete), and our friends at DraftKings have Georgia as a whopping 17.5 point favorite.
So why should LSU even take he field? Clearly an upset is impossible right? Well to help possibly map out how LSU could knockout the defending national champs is Macon Dawg from our Georgia SB Nation site, Dawg Sports.
1. I first want to ask about Georgia as a program. Does it feel like Georgia has now surpassed Alabama as THE college football program? Will the rest of college football be spending the foreseeable future gunning for Kirby and the Dawgs?
I don’t know that we’re at that point just yet. But it feels like this year could be the chance to initiate the discussion with another title win. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers appeared to be on the verge of dethroning Alabama, but that never really came to fruition. I think Bulldog fans struggled long enough that a lot of them are more focused on just this season and less on dynastic ambition then they would have thought they would be.
2. How inexplicable is it that Ed Orgeron went 2-0 against Kirby Smart and neither game was particularly close?
To be honest, I think a lot of UGA fans would have to go look in the media guide to confirm that. They all remember the 2019 title game loss, which didn’t really hurt too bad because that LSU squad felt like a team of destiny, and Georgia came in more beat up from season-ending injuries than at any point in my 16 years covering the team. A lot of them probably managed to blackout the 2018 defeat however. It’s an interesting trivia question that there are only two schools in the SEC who Kirby Smart has not beaten as the head coach at Georgia. One is obviously LSU, the other is Ole Miss. The Rebels rotate onto Georgia’s schedule next year for a home game in Athens, so this one actually gives Kirby a chance to complete the first of two legs remaining in the “SEC cycle.”
3. Okay now let’s talk about Saturday. Georgia’s in the playoff no matter what, right? And is losing last year’s SEC championship motivation enough for Georgia to not come out flat on Saturday?
Another weird trivia item is that Georgia actually has only two players on the roster who were wearing red and black the last time UGA won an SEC title, which was in 2017 against Auburn. Those are outside linebacker Robert Beal, and the Mailman himself, Stetson Bennett. That’s something that Kirby Smart has talked about in the lead up to this game. He points every year to winning the SEC is the first step to making the playoff.
And while Georgia is probably in the playoff win, lose, or draw on Saturday, they do still have a good bit to play for. The primary concern is that if they lose while Michigan beats Purdue in the Big Ten title game, the Wolverines would have their pick of semifinal destinations, and will probably choose the Peach Bowl in Atlanta over a trip to Arizona for the Fiesta. Georgia’s road to a title is probably a lot easier playing a virtual home game back in Mercedes-Benz Stadium versus having to take back to back flights out west.
4. LSU’s got no pressure on them now thanks to the Tigers falling flat on their face in College Station over the weekend. But does that make LSU more dangerous heading into the game? Or am I just grasping at straws?
I’ve really struggled with this one. On the one hand, there’s a temptation to say that LSU was definitively eliminated from playoff contention, so that the result of this game matters less. The Tigers are going to a nice New Year’s six bowl no matter what happens. They are not playing for a national championship berth, which they very well might have been doing with a win against the Aggies.
On the other hand, I’ve seen Georgia teams that lost to LSU or Alabama under similar circumstances turn around and play some of the most inspired football of the season playing for nothing but pride. That’s more what I would anticipate, a team that wants to show they belong on the field with Georgia and is better than the effort put forth last week.
5. Is Georgia bored? The Missouri and Kentucky games were weird, and heck the game against Georgia Tech was 10-7 at halftime. Has Georgia just been playing with its food all season long waiting for the postseason to begin?
This has actually been a hot topic of conversation among Georgia fans all season. The answer seems to be that when the Bulldogs know that they don’t necessarily need a 100% effort they don’t entirely put that in. See, inter alia, Missouri, Kentucky, and Georgia Tech. On the other hand, in games against top 10 opponents this team has shown a remarkable ability to flip the switch. For that look at the season-opening thrashing of Oregon and the definitive beating of Tennessee, which would’ve been much worse had Georgia not run out the clock essentially from the five minute mark of the third quarter.
So far this one feels like a game the ‘Dawgs are up for, as it should. But that’s no guarantee against a team with talent like the Tigers have if they can play smart football.
6. Georgia’s won 26 of its last 27 games, are the defending national champs, and by far and away the best team in America. So how can an LSU team held together by duct tape and string beat them?
Turnovers. They are Georgia’s Achilles’ heel and the thing that scares everyone in, on, around, or generally interested in this team the most. Georgia is 10th in the conference with a disappointing -2 turnover margin on the season. And in the games which have been uncomfortably close, see primarily that Missouri game, turnovers have been the thing that has helped underdogs stay with them. It feels like this Georgia team can only be stopped offensively when they stop themselves. Unfortunately, they have very nearly done that a couple of times this season, and against teams worse than the Bayou Bengals.