From Jerry Hinnen’s “Keys to the Game: Georgia vs. LSU”:
… such is the Tigers’ incredible strength in special teams and defense that they rank a mediocre 62nd in total offense … and still a robust 13th in scoring offense at 38 points a game, better than all but seven other BCS conference teams. But as those low yardage totals indicate, putting together 8, 9-play drives that cover 75, 85 yards are not what LSU wants to do or what plays to their strengths. Even the 14-play, 77-yard march that got the Tigers on the board vs. Arkansas had to survive a botched option pitch and a near-interception from Jordan Jefferson to hit paydirt.
The Tigers can bang out those kinds of drives, of course, thanks to Spencer Ware and Michael Ford and the rest of LSU’s pounding ground game. But Georgia can answer that with the nation’s No. 6 rush defense, Jarvis Jones, John Jenkins, Christian Robinson and the rest. If Ware and Co. find some tough sledding somewhere between their own 20 and the end zone, is Jefferson good enough to repeatedly execute in the passing game — against the nation’s fourth-ranked secondary in opponent’s QB rating, no less — enough to put those usual 38 points on the board?
One thing about LSU that tends to get overlooked is how impressively efficient that offense is. Jerry notes that disparity between total offense and scoring offense; LSU’s passing rating is just behind Georgia’s, as well.
Those stats are all the more remarkable because that’s an offense built to grind it out. LSU is 74th nationally in plays of 10+ yards or more. (By comparison, Georgia is 28th.) But it works because the Tigers are fifth in red zone conversions and first in turnover margin. There are only two offenses in the country which have turned the ball over less than 10 times all season, LSU and Wisconsin.
These guys just don’t screw up very much. And they tend to make their opponents pay for it when they do. That’s pretty much what Georgia has to avoid to have a shot.
I’ve paid attention to winning the double positive – turnover margin and explosive plays – ever since I read that Bruce Feldman post. If there’s ever a time for the Dawgs to win those battles, this will be the game.
One last thing: Jerry mentions the 14-point deficit LSU faced in the Arkansas game. It was the Tigers’ biggest of the season, not that it mattered as things turned out. I don’t think they’ll fare so well if that miraculously happens Saturday. Georgia doesn’t have the best passing game LSU has seen this year, nor do the Dawgs have the best defense the Tigers have worked against. But what Georgia does have is the best combination of the two of any team to step on the field with LSU. I doubt Georgia races out to an early big lead like that, but if it were to happen, I’d like its chances to hold on for the win. I’d like them a lot.