Just a bunch of things that have gone through my mind this week…
- Intangibles are interesting, and maybe even favor Georgia a little. How often do you see a game between two top ten teams where both can legitimately play the respect card? There is a difference, admittedly, in that LSU’s disrespect came before the season started, while the Dawgs garnered theirs after the Clemson loss (and you sense that even the South Carolina win didn’t complete restore their preseason luster). Does either team channel it today? Hard to say. Less hard, though, is figuring that Mettenberger is going to have to control his emotions today. Anybody who thinks he’s not feeling something strong about returning to Athens isn’t being realistic. Will he be overhyped and then settle in? How was his focus and preparation this week in practice? It’s something to watch. Speaking of emotions, I do think the early schedules for both teams give Georgia some edge today. It’s LSU’s first game in front of a large SEC road crowd, while Georgia’s already faced two top-tier opponents, one on the road. I say “some” edge, because LSU under Miles has done pretty well for itself in SEC road games.
- This isn’t a rematch of the 2011 SECCG. That LSU defense was one of the most talented ones I’ve ever seen. Loaded and deep front, incredible secondary, for starters. But what really struck me about that group was how insanely fast the linebackers were at filling the gaps on those occasions when something opened up on the line for Georgia’s running backs. Fast forward to today, and things have changed considerably. LSU’s d-line looks just as formidable (although maybe not as deep), but the back seven, while talented, don’t look as imposing. And Georgia’s certainly upgraded from a banged-up Isaiah Crowell and Carlton Thomas. Gurley’s gotten his yardage against a bunch of good defenses and unless LSU decides to sell out on the level we saw from North Texas – which I seriously doubt – I expect him to get his yardage against this Tigers defense, too.
- Which fullback has the better game today? How often do you get the chance to ask a question like that anyway?
- It’s not that both teams need a pass rush today. It’s that they need their pass rush to do different things. LSU wants to get to Murray. Sacks and fumbles are the order of the day. Affecting his footwork in the pocket is also something Chavis wants to provoke. While I don’t expect the Tigers to come out loading the box at the start, because I think they’ll first see if they can control Georgia’s running game with the front four, I do expect them to blitz, because that’s been a pretty reliable way to disrupt Georgia’s offense. On the other side (and Jordan Jenkins probably doesn’t want to hear this), sacks would be nice, but not necessary. Job One for the Georgia defense has to be to move Mett out of the pocket. He’s not a runner and his effectiveness as a passer declines significantly if he’s forced to throw on the move. I don’t think you can force Hill and those two receivers into having substandard games, but Mettenberger’s a different story.
- That being said, the biggest key to the game is for Georgia to avoid the serious mistakes that have led to easy scores in each of the first three games. Special teams need to be shored up, Murray can’t make one of those Coxian throws like the one that was intercepted in the North Texas end zone and the offensive line is going to have to fight hard to keep Murray from getting one of those fast sacks that don’t give him time to protect the ball before he’s hit. Along those lines, expect to see much of the gameplan we saw deployed against South Carolina – lots of quick hitting stuff and variations in pace.
- Karma. I’m looking at you, football gods. You took away what should have been one of those moments for the players, coaches and fans with that ridiculous celebration penalty in the 2009 game. It’s time to pay us all back.
- Do I detect a little Evil Richt in that call for a “red out” today? It’s not like that already isn’t the predominant color worn in the stands. He might as well call for a “breathe out”. But if it gets LSU into thinking Richt’s looking for a little fake juice when he really isn’t, maybe there’s a little gamesmanship in play. On the other hand, I could be seriously overthinking this.
- Whatever else happens, nobody is going to be able to blame the results on the weather. Today looks like it’s going to be the polar opposite of last Saturday, so we’d better not see Murray coming out in the second half skipping throws to Conley, as we saw in the rain last week.
- What’s better – two really outstanding wide outs or a bunch of guys who can consistently make plays in the receiving game? We’re about to find out.