5 reasons Georgia will beat LSU in the SEC Championship Game
It has been the headliner of championship weekend year in and year out. This season’s SEC Championship Game, featuring No. 2 LSU and No. 4 Georgia, won’t be any different.
Georgia is in its 3rd conference title game and is seeking its 2nd SEC crown in that span. LSU is making its first appearance since 2011, where it ripped the Bulldogs 42-10 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
A loss for Georgia likely means a spot in the Sugar Bowl, but that will be a hollow consolation at this point. The goal is plain and simply getting to the Playoff.
Here’s why the Dawgs will beat the Tigers in Atlanta on Saturday:
1. Jake Fromm will be well protected and accurate
We’ve mentioned LSU’s 30 sacks, well off Florida’s 46 but only 3 stops shy of 2nd-place Ole Miss’ total of 33. So, it has the ability to get to the quarterback.
The problem is, no one has been able to consistently get to Jake Fromm, who has been sacked just 9 times all year. Florida, with its skilled pass rush, didn’t even record a sack against him. That’s a big part of why he’s been able to throw for 21 touchdowns and complete 62 percent of his passes.
We’ve heard the accolades for the offensive line week in and week out, and it will play a pivotal role in its biggest game of the season thus far.
2. Clyde Edwards-Helaire will struggle to gain traction …
Edwards-Helaire has been on a bit of a tear over his past few games. After scoring 7 touchdowns and averaging just over 78 yards per game in the first 7 games, in his past 5, he’s scored 9 touchdowns and averaged 137.2 yards, including 4 triple-digit totals.
The thing with Edwards-Helaire, though, is that he’s not a traditional workhorse of a back as his highest carry total was against Auburn (26). That’s due in part to how well Joe Burrow is throwing the ball. That being said, though, he’s made an enormous jump in production in his junior season.
For a Georgia defense that has feasted on neutralizing opposing running games, though, all signs point to Edwards-Helaire being its next victim. Sooner or later, the Tigers will need to abandon the run game altogether and lean on Burrow much more, which should allow the secondary to better prepare and adjust for what’s coming.
And, by the way, Georgia’s still allowed just 1 rushing touchdown all season.
… but Georgia might be able to find room to run
LSU’s running defense has had its moments of weakness, never more evident than on Nov. 16 when it allowed 402 yards against Ole Miss. It has done a reasonably good job holding opponents in its 11 other games. And with D’Andre Swift likely going into the game less than 100 percent, things might appear to favor the Tigers.
Keep in mind, though, that Swift has had the privilege of running behind one of the nation’s top offensive lines, so even if he’s not healthy, the Dawgs could split carries between Brian Herrien, James Cook and Zamir White. And that could be a bit of a game-planning nightmare for LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.
The Tigers yield over 125 yards on the ground per game on average, but even without Swift, you have to like the Dawgs’ chances of exceeding that number.
Georgia will play the mistake-free football it’s played just about all season
Remember those 3 interceptions Jake Fromm threw against South Carolina? It seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? He didn’t throw 1 before that game and hasn’t thrown 1 since.
As a whole, the Dawgs have done a terrific job valuing the football. The Georgia Tech game, where they lost 3 fumbles, was uncharacteristic because those were only their 9th, 10th and 11th turnovers of the season. Prior to that, the last time an opposing team recorded a takeaway was, naturally, South Carolina, who tacked a fumble recovery onto its 3 picks of Fromm.
And that theme of solid ball protection should continue on Saturday despite an LSU secondary that’s picked opposing quarterbacks off 14 times.
Jake Fromm has the big-game experience that Joe Burrow doesn’t have
Joe Burrow has the numbers to back up his Heisman Trophy campaign. But there’s a significant advantage that Fromm has over Burrow: big-game experience.
This will be Fromm’s 3rd SEC Championship appearance; he will look to go 2-1 after beating Auburn in 2017 and falling to Alabama last year. He played in the Sugar Bowl last year against Texas last year. Then there’s that National Championship Game appearance in 2017.
With that in mind, Burrow might have more pressure on his shoulders as while a loss probably wouldn’t knock LSU out of the top 4, it will face several questions going into the Playoff as to why it couldn’t get it done in Atlanta against a team it was favored to beat. If the committee does leave the Tigers out due to a loss, that will leave a major asterisk on the legacy of Burrow and the rest of this year’s team.
Meanwhile, this is nothing new for Fromm. Expect the junior to come out relaxed against this Tigers defense and ready to lead them to yet another Playoff appearance.