SEC Championship Game: 5 advantages LSU has over Georgia
No. 2 LSU and No. 4 Georgia have been hanging around the top 4 spots in the rankings all season.
Both won their division to reach the SEC Championship Game on Saturday in Atlanta.
Both have a lot of strengths and very few weaknesses.
LSU scores a lot of points. Georgia doesn’t score as many.
Georgia doesn’t give up a whole bunch of points. LSU sometimes does.
Both have won a lot of blowouts. Both have found a way to win when games haven’t been blowouts – with the exception of Georgia’s stumble against South Carolina.
Each team represents the other’s biggest and final challenge to reaching the College Football Playoff.
Here are 5 advantages the Tigers have over Georgia:
1. Their defensive backs
No, we’re not even going to use any of that DBU stuff because, frankly, this secondary has not live up to the standard that led to that nickname – at least not consistently.
But LSU has a lot of talented defensive backs.
Yeah, they’ve given up a lot of yards and they’ve missed a few too many tackles.
They’ll give up yards – and probably miss a few tackles – in this game too.
But they also stick to receivers really well. They break up passes. They don’t intercept passes as frequently as coach Ed Orgeron would like – but they do from time to time – like last Saturday when they had 3 against Texas A&M. They now have 14 — 1 behind the league leaders.
Grant Delpit didn’t play 2 weeks ago so his injured ankle could get better. It has.
Derek Stingley Jr. is still a freshman, but this is his 13th game. He might as well be a sophomore – and he never played much like a freshman anyway.
He made big plays early in the season and brought a lot of attention to himself. He saw a few teams attack him and he got burned from time to time. But not much.
He’s made a few bad plays and a whole bunch of good ones.
And that’s what this is all about – playmaking. Delpit, Stingley, Kristian Fulton, Kary Vincent Jr., JaCoby Stevens and Cordale Flott are all playmakers.
2. Their scoring pace
Georgia plays very good defense. It’s probably not going to allow LSU to reach its scoring average of 48-plus points. Then again, it might.
Even if Georgia forces an occasional punt and possesses the ball for long stretches to keep Joe Burrow on the sideline, the Tigers are going to move the ball and they’re going to score points.
No matter how much Georgia is able to keep the ball away from LSU, when Burrow has the ball he and the Tigers will push the ball on the fast break. They will score. They will score fast.
At some point the Bulldogs are going to have to try and keep up. They’ll need to push the ball up the field and score faster than they’re accustomed to because LSU will set a blistering pace and the Tigers don’t slow down.
Georgia would prefer to slow down more often than LSU will allow it to.
3. A stable of receivers
Georgia might double Ja’Marr Chase from time to time. It might do the same with Justin Jefferson.
It can’t do both.
And it can’t forget about Terrace Marshall Jr. Or Thaddeus Moss. Or Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
LSU loves to send 5 skilled pass catchers at the defense. Most are wide receivers, but Moss, the tight end, and Edwards-Helaire, the halfback, are problematic for defenses as well.
No one – not even Georgia – can cover all 5 receivers effectively on a consistent basis.
Burrow’s decision-making is exceptional.
Once both teams are lined up, Burrow will look to the sideline for guidance, survey the matchups, select the most favorable ones and once the ball is snapped he’ll find the open receiver and deliver him the ball.
It’s not as easy as that sounds. But it nearly always looks as though it is.
Jake Fromm is a good quarterback and he has talented guys around him as well, though his top target is injured and his best deep threat (George Pickens) is suspended for the 1st half.
But when plays are unfolding, Burrow is going to see more advantageous opportunities than From will.
4. Clyde Edwards-Helaire
D’Andre Swift is a really good running back and Georgia has the offensive line to enable him to have a big day.
But Edwards-Helaire is the perfect complement to what Burrow and the passing game have been doing – in addition to being an important contributor to that passing game.
If Burrow weren’t having a season for the ages, we’d be hearing a lot more about what a special season Edwards-Helaire is having.
He leads the SEC in rushing touchdowns with 16. He makes big plays as rusher and a pass catcher.
The first defender to reach him rarely tackles him. Sometimes Edwards-Helaire makes him miss. Sometimes he runs him over. Sometimes he does both and eliminates two would-be tacklers.
He’s shifty. He’s strong. He’s determined. He’s coming to a missed tackle near you.
When he makes tacklers miss – and especially when he bounces off of them – he excites his teammates.
He made big play after big play against Alabama and the Tigers’ confidence grew noticeably each time.
Edwards-Helaire will make plays on the ground and through the air. He’ll find the end zone – at least once.
And each step of the way, the Tigers will believe more and more that they’re going to SEC champions because they won’t believe they can lose with a guy like that.
5. Joe Burrow
He’s going to win the Heisman Trophy. He’s already broken every significant LSU single-season passing record.
He’s passed for more yards than Tim Couch did when he set the SEC record. He tied Drew Lock’s SEC record for touchdown passes (44). He’s on pace to break Colt McCoy’s NCAA completion-percentage.
Burrow has had as good a season as any college quarterback has ever had – probably as good as any college football player at any position has had.
Fromm is good. Burrow is better.
The quarterback gives LSU its biggest advantage – as he has in every game this season.