Here we are, one day away from game day and I still have no idea what to expect from tomorrow. I could see this being a defensive slugfest, a shootout, or a blowout for either team and would be surprised by none of those results. These two teams are the bizarro each other. LSU is 4-0, but has beaten its four teams rather unimpressively, needing a punt return TD and goal line stand last week to fend off the other Bulldogs. Georgia has needed a goal line stop to beat the Chickens, a near perfect performance from Joe Cox to defeat the Hogs, and a buzzer beating field goal to defeat ASU. Needless to say, these two teams have lived on the edge and have survived thus far, with Georgia’s loss at Oklahoma State to open the season the one blemish between the two.
The critics of Les Miles have come out in full force and a win at Georgia could do a lot to silence those critics. They are used to contending for national titles and see last year as a massive failure (I guess having the best four year run in school history, winning a national title, and winning four bowl games including two BCS games doesn’t carry much water in Baton Rouge). Many are wondering why uber-freshman Russell Shepard hasn’t been let loose on the field as of yet and think that Miles is holding his hand for either Georgia or Florida with Shepard (I personally believe this is more of a factor of Shepard being a TRUE FRESHMAN in the SEC that doesn’t have a firm grasp of the offense yet a la Georgia uber-freshman Marlon Brown, but never try to use logic with an angry LSU fan).
For the better part of the last year, or four years depending on who you talk to, Willie Martinez has received much of the Georgia fans’ ire. While undoubtedly the defense has failed to live up to the lofty standards of its early 2000s predecessors, it has buckled down in tough situations this season, keeping teams out of the end zone and being stingy as hell in the 4th quarter. The defense showed up last week and shut down an Arizona State offense that isn’t considered to be world-beaters by any means, but nonetheless shut it down.
Earlier this week, cocknfire over at Team Speed Kills had this cogent thought (H/T: Senator):
Secondly, it’s quite possible that there will be no return to the mean for this team. Georgia might simply be one of those teams that turns the ball over a lot. That doesn’t mean they are a better team than the final score indicates; if turnovers are a part of a team’s identity, then they are just as much an indicator of a team’s quality as the great WR play of A.J. Green (8 catches, 153 yards, 1 TD) or a solid defensive effort (204 total yards, one offensive TD).
Put simply: Georgia still has a long way to go to prove they’re a great team that’s had a few bad breaks and not a good team with a knack for the well-time escape.
As the Senator said, it’s hard to disagree with that assessment. Right now, I’m holding in the camp that this could be a great team that continues to shoot itself in the foot, but right now I believe it’s merely “a good team with a knack for the well-time escape.”
This week is a defining week for both teams, but not in the exposing a poser or proving a contender way (although I don’t think anyone outside of the greater Baton Rouge area would argue that LSU has any business being ranked 4th in the nation). LSU can improve to 5-0 (3-0 in SEC play) with a huge date looming against Florida next week. A win would mean that LSU could still lose to Florida, but get a rematch in Atlanta by running the table in the West. This is the one game that Georgia can afford to lose if it wants to make a run at the East this year. A loss to a West team doesn’t sink their hopes if (a huge if) they can beat Florida at the Cocktail Party. If Georgia wins, it will be the first win over a top 5 opponent at Sanford Stadium in 25 years and will validate Georgia as a team that always has enough talent to win no matter who they play if they can just put it all together. A Georgia win would also improve them to 3-0 in the conference with the remaining slate against the rest of the East and Auburn.
Here’s what I hope will happen, but have no way of feeling confident about it:
If Georgia doesn’t turn the ball over like they have the first four games, I honestly believe Georgia could win this one pretty easily. I believe most of the opposition scoring that has either put the game out of reach (Oklahoma State) or let other teams keep it closer than it really should have been (South Carolina/Arkansas/Arizona State) have come from self-inflicted wounds and turning the ball over on our own side of the field. If Georgia cuts that crap out I truly believe we win in Stillwater and those other three games aren’t close at all. But as cocknfire pointed out, perhaps this just is who Georgia is this year and their biggest challenge will not be the other team on the field, but overcoming themselves and their boneheaded mistakes. If Georgia holds onto the ball I think they win in the neighborhood of 10-14 points. I’m guessing something like 35-23.
Here’s what I think will happen, but also have no way of feeling confident about it:
Georgia will continue shooting itself in the foot and give LSU the ball twice on our side of the 50. LSU will capitalize and score 14 points where the drives took less than 35 yards. Georgia will be able to move the ball fairly effectively through the air, but not on the ground. AJ Green will be a beast and will singlehandedly keep the team in the game. In the end, Georgia will fall by 4-7 points and wonder what could have been if they didn’t turn the ball over inside their own 50. I’m thinking both teams will score somewhere in the mid-20s with LSU coming out on top 26-20.
For what it’s worth, Phil Steele and his computers pick us to win 27-20. I completely advocate never betting against Steele and his Skynet computers, but I just have a gut feeling that this is going to be an unhappy weekend for Dawg fans. I hope that I am proven wrong.
Stewie gets his two cents in and doesn’t like Georgia’s odds.