As I sat there watching the LSU defense bludgeon Mississippi State into submission (52 total rushing yards; 15 LSU tackles for loss), I couldn’t help but gain a greater appreciation for Georgia’s scheduling advantage this season. Avoiding the Tigers’ fast, ferocious and fundamentally sound defense should make the regular season a more pleasant experience. Check this box out:
LSU’S Rush Defense – 2011 Opponents
Oregon 287.6 95 Northwestern St. 106.2 -4 Mississippi St 215.9 52* * Fewest Since 2008
Have a nice October, Gators.
And while LSU’s offense won’t win any admirers amongst the Gang of Six set, it’s well suited for a team which strength is in a muscular run game. LSU’s receivers won’t scare anybody and Jarrett Lee won’t either. However, they’ve stripped out all the busyness of Crowton’s playbook and while what’s left may be crude, it’s effective. Witness Lee’s stats: 21-27, 213 yards, 1 TD, 1, INT, 148.86 passer rating. That’s a competent performance and with that defense, LSU really doesn’t need more than that to win. (Sort of reminds you of Georgia during VanGorder’s time, doesn’t it?)
Their schedule is daunting, with five top 25 teams remaining, so they’ll have to stay on top of their game. The meeting in Tuscaloosa is shaping up as a classic SEC slug fest, but it’s the Arkansas game that looks really intriguing from here, as that should be the most dynamic offense LSU will see this season. Still, if defense wins championships, you’ve got to say the Tigers definitely have a shot.
As for Mississippi State, Dan Mullen’s ability to control a game is admirable, but he doesn’t have the horses to translate that into a win against as good a team as LSU is. MSU’s offensive line was exposed last night. So was its receiving corps. And Relf simply isn’t talented enough to carry that offense on his own.
Mississippi State’s defense is still fun to watch and it’s disruptive. But LSU ground it down with a steady diet of running plays behind that big, strong offensive line and efficient play-action passing.
So what does that mean in Athens in three weeks’ time? Well, nobody is going to confuse Georgia’s defense with LSU’s, but it’s not like MSU is walking in with an offensive line as good as South Carolina’s, a wide receiver like Alshon Jeffery, a running back like Marcus Lattimore or a quarterback as good as Kellen Moore. I’m not expecting domination, but it’s an offense that can be controlled. (Admittedly, I’d feel better about that if the Dawgs had at least one of the missing ILBs back on the field.)
The question is whether Georgia’s offense can function better than it did last year in Starkville and whether the Dawgs can avoid their penchant for self-destruction with untimely turnovers. One thing I expect against that defense is for Orson Charles to have a big game. If Aaron Murray can stay on his feet all day, I like Georgia’s chances.