Make no mistake, tomorrow’s game has all the makings of a knockdown, drag out, heavyweight fight (sort of like Georgia’s last trip to Baton Rouge): two tough power offenses going up against two tough SEC defenses.
Of course, the last matchup Georgia had along those same lines a few weeks ago didn’t go too well.
Anyway, add to that what’s at stake for both schools – national championship aspirations and SEC divisional races – and you’ve got all the ingredients for a classic conference slobber knocker.
If you want the details and breakdowns, Jody and Doug have done their usual excellent jobs with that. (Kyle should have his up soon, as well.) There’s also this message board post that I recommend reading. Instead, I’m going to go off on my typical tangent and start with some random observations.
– LSU may want this game to be all about Alabama, but LSU ain’t Alabama. You have to figure that the Tigers would like nothing more than to clone what the Tide was able to do in Athens – rely on superior line play on both sides of the ball and close to perfect execution on offense – to dominate Georgia. And there’s no doubt that LSU has the talented offensive and defensive lines, as well as an excellent running game, to make that a possibility.
The catch is that, for whatever reason, these guys haven’t put together a total game against an opponent all year. Their win against Auburn is looking less and less impressive each week. They put up less resistance in their blow out loss to Florida than Georgia did in its similar loss to ‘Bama. And there’s something about having to pull out a defensive gimmick against a less than stellar South Carolina squad to overcome a first half deficit and pull out a seven point victory.
Speaking of gimmicks, there’s also this offensive wrinkle that LSU introduced last week:
LSU unveiled “The Pistol” package last week against South Carolina, and it was a hit. The Tigers feel like they’ve just scratched the surface of what they can do with it, which means Georgia better be ready for a few new wrinkles out of it this Saturday. It’s essentially a triple-option hybrid with Keiland Williams lining up as the deep back, Charles Scott at fullback and world-class sprinter Trindon Holliday also lining up in the backfield as another running threat…
Like I said, teams that are really dominant shouldn’t have to reinvent what they’re doing in the middle of the season against middling competition.
– While we’re on the subject, Georgia’s offense ain’t South Carolina’s offense. Make no mistake about it, LSU’s defense dominated the Gamecocks’ offense in the second half last week, much to Spurrier’s chagrin. They held SC (can I say that?) to minus-7 yards of offense in the fourth quarter. Much of its success came from a blistering array of all out blitzing that the ‘Cocks simply couldn’t handle. But given that South Carolina was playing a quarterback making his first start, has had no running game to speak of this season and boasted an offensive line that’s last in the conference in yielding sacks, the bigger question is why the LSU defensive brain trust waited so long to go balls out against those guys.
Unlike South Carolina, Georgia can run the ball. Matthew Stafford is a bit more experienced than Stephen Garcia. And while the Dawg offensive line has looked shaky at times due to injuries and personnel shuffling, it’s given up less than one third of the sacks that the Carolina line has. The strategy that succeeded brilliantly in Columbia may not bring the same results in Baton Rouge.
– Georgia isn’t going to win by out-talenting LSU. The Dawgs have been the clearly better bunch from a talent standpoint in every game this season, except for ‘Bama. But LSU isn’t Tennessee or Vandy and Georgia can’t expect to show up and simply wear out the Tigers by the end of the game. The focus and execution that were missing against Alabama have to be there on Saturday for the Dawgs to have a chance to win. The good news is that LSU’s had focus issues of its own this season.
Keys to the game:
- No matter what, don’t abandon the run. Knowshon needs his touches and the team needs what he brings to the table when he gets those touches. Buck Belue mentioned earlier in the week that Georgia’s record under Richt when it has a 100-yard rusher is exponentially better than when it doesn’t. Bobo has to keep his poise with his playcalling.
- Matt Stafford. Speaking of poise, Stafford’s got to trust his pass protection. He needs to make his reads and he needs to concentrate on his footwork. Georgia doesn’t have to have an unbelievable game from Stafford to win; it just needs a smart, controlled game from him.
- Make LSU one-dimensional on offense. That this is oldest cliche on the books when it comes to defensive strategy doesn’t make it wrong. Stuff the run and take your chances with two first year quarterbacks being left to win the game. On the other hand, if Georgia sits back in that soft zone and lets Lee and Hatch look like John Parker Wilson by picking the defense apart with play action, screens and underneath stuff, it’s really time to start screaming about the scheme (and despairing about the Florida game, for that matter).
- Mimbs and Walsh need to be on their games. Trindon Holliday is scary enough on his own. Georgia doesn’t need to make his job any easier. And missed field goals in Baton Rouge have a tendency to come back and haunt you. Just ask Billy Bennett.
In the end, it all comes back to focus and execution. We all know there’s a game each year where everything finally comes together for Georgia. Tomorrow would be a good time for that sort of effort to make an appearance. If both teams are playing at their best, I think Stafford makes the difference in the end.