Hear me out. I know most everyone is laser-focused on whether Georgia’s offense will have enough of a pulse come Saturday to make a real game of it, but I grow more and more convinced that the key matchup will be on the other side of the ball.
To state the obvious, the Georgia defense/LSU offense collision is definitely a strength vs. strength deal. Check out these advanced stats, in case you need further convincing.
Those stats are real, and they’re spectacular.
Bill Connelly’s SP+ calls for a final score of LSU 29, UGA 26. My question boils down to whether Georgia can do something to shave that LSU tally south of 26 points. Maybe, just maybe, that Dawg defense can.
It’s gonna be a daunting task, though. It’s not just that the LSU offense is hell on wheels. It’s also that it’s structured by nature to work away from Georgia’s greatest defensive strength, stopping the run. The Tigers’ offense uses the pass to set up the run. (With that quarterback and those receivers, who can blame them?)
Burrow will operate out of 4- and 5- receiver sets all game long. Georgia will likely be forced to counter with its dime package for most of that. That’s going to keep some key personnel off the field more than Smart and Lanning would like.
Fortunately, there is some depth at cornerback due to Tyson Campbell’s injury situation. There’s also some additional talent that will have to be relied upon. For example,
I don’t worry about the ability of Georgia’s defense to prevent the big play. They’ve been doing that all season. But what LSU does to attack the middle of the field with its passing game? Yeah, I worry about that. The Dawgs are going to have to make adjustments to take away the slant pass that has seemingly been a problem all year.
That’s all well and good, but it’s still not the matchup I referred to at the beginning of this post. For that, take a look at this video of the SEC Network’s Marcus Spears. It’s his take on what Georgia is capable of doing to limit Joe Burrow. He’s bullish about that — and before you dismiss him, he reminds the viewer at the beginning of the clip that Smart dialed up some coverages that Tua had problems with in last year’s SECCG. Kirby and Lanning may be challenged, but they won’t coach scared.
Anyway, as I watched the video in its entirety, I got to a conclusion I can’t shake. This game is going to come down to what Georgia’s four-man front can do with LSU’s offensive line. If the Dawgs can control the line of scrimmage with four, get pressure (with this defense, that doesn’t necessarily mean sacks), keep Burrow contained in the pocket and prevent Edwards-Helaire from having an unchallenged day on the ground, that will enable Smart and Lanning to mix all kind of looks behind them. That should help greatly limit LSU’s mid-field passing game.
I may even be underestimating what Georgia will be able to do with pressure. Keep in mind that sacks allowed aren’t something LSU avoids. The Tigers are next to last in that stat in conference play.
I’m not saying this is a lock for Georgia. Far from it. I’m saying that I don’t see a path to victory if Kirby can’t get his defense to play well with a four-man front, because without that, I don’t see how LSU stays under thirty points.
In other words, it’s the trenches and in the SEC, that still means more.