Georgia's final test before the CFP awaits: LSU in the SEC Championship
Following Saturday’s comfortable 52-7 win at Georgia Tech, a reporter asked Georgia coach Kirby Smart how much tape he had watched of LSU this past week.
Smart cut off the reporter.
“When would I have had time to do that?” he replied. “I ate Thanksgiving dinner and prepared for Georgia Tech.”
Time to start watching that tape now, Kirby. LSU’s pretty good.
One couldn’t accuse the 4th-year coach and his team of looking past a Yellow Jackets squad that stood at 3-8 and was starting off a rebuilding project under 1st-year head coach Geoff Collins. And sure, maybe the 17-7 halftime score was a bit closer than hoped thanks in part to some uncharacteristically sloppy play.
By the time the final whistle blew, though, the game was well in hand as Smart could do something he hadn’t been able to a while: lift his starters.
As expected, Clean Old-Fashioned Hate was an old-fashioned beatdown. And it ended with Georgia’s much-maligned offense having one of its biggest days of the year as the Dawgs hung 500 yards on the hapless Jackets, including 230 in the 3rd quarter, en route to its highest point total since a 55-0 win over Arkansas State in Week 3. Jake Fromm was 14-29 for 254 yards, with his 4 touchdown passes to 4 receivers giving him 8 against Tech all-time and tying a personal best set last year against … well … Tech in a 45-21 win. Six Dawgs, led by D’Andre Swift, combined for 36 carries and 221 yards.
The defense was its typical self, even accounting for a touchdown when Tyson Campbell jumped on a muffed punt in the 4th quarter. (It also forced a fumble in the 1st quarter that Georgia Tech recovered.) Tech QB James Graham threw for just 40 yards on 5-of-20 passing. The running game strained to get just 99 yards on 37 carries.
But with the good came the bad, starting with George Pickens’ ejection in the 3rd quarter after exchanging punches with a Tech player, meaning that he’s out for the 1st half of the SEC Championship Game with Lawrence Cager already done for the season with an ankle injury. Swift was banged up in the 2nd half and left the game, but while he should be good to go, per Smart, it’s yet another curveball the Dawgs will have to deal with this Saturday.
Then there’s the matter of facing the Tigers’ offense, the 2nd-highest scoring in the country that’s scored 40 or more points 10 times — with 4 50-plus games and a pair with 60 or more. But with the powerful offense comes a pair of caveats: a less-than-stellar defense that’s given up its share of points and the fact that Georgia’s defense is the most complete LSU will have faced all year.
A sometimes-iffy defense and a virtually unstoppable offense. Does that sound like the reverse of any particular team you know?
The problem is, even if it had Cager and Swift at full health and Pickens available for the entire game, Georgia’s offense wouldn’t have been able to survive a shootout with Joe Burrow, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and LSU’s offense. Even the most optimistic Dawgs fan can recognize that.
So this game will belong to the defense, which will need to put together a wire-to-wire performance and then some. No team has run for more than 163 yards against it; 8 other teams have been held to double digits or fewer. It’s also not given up more than 275 yards through the air.
Burrow set the SEC single-season record for passing yards last night. He now has 4,366. His “worst” game in yardage this year has been 278, in the opener against Georgia Southern. A game that LSU won 55-3 during which he went 23-of-27 and threw 5 touchdowns before giving way to Myles Brennan.
But all of those are just numbers right now. The scene is set and the path is laid. All that matters to Georgia is what it does Saturday as it stands 1 win from its 2nd College Football Playoff appearance.
Welcome to SEC Championship Week.