Bold predictions, SEC Championship Game edition
It’s bold predictions time, but instead of going around the SEC and predicting something crazy, we’ve got to stay in the parameters of one game. Obviously, crazy in this case has to be more specific than just a general outcome prediction. Here are a half-dozen bold predictions for the SEC title game.
1. LSU passes for 350
Georgia does have an incredibly stout defense, doubtlessly tougher than anything LSU has seen all season. But by the same token, Georgia has feasted off a series of weak offenses. UGA’s SEC schedule pitted the Dawgs against the league’s 14th, 12th, 11th, ninth, sixth, 10th, fourth, and eighth most productive offenses. Of the teams Georgia played, Florida is the one whose passing game most resembles LSU’s, although obviously it’s several notches below that. That game was largely decided by shaky officiating, and UF passed for 257 yards on 33 attempts (with no interceptions). LSU will have 350 or so passing yards on Saturday.
2. Georgia creates some turnovers
As good as the UGA defense was, its season was built on playing bad offenses and getting ahead of them early. UGA’s own offense was fifth in the SEC, but some of that was built on playing conservatively and avoiding mistakes. UGA’s 11 turnovers were second only to Alabama (with 10) for the fewest all season. But the scary thing for the Bulldogs is that despite playing with their ears pinned back for most of the year, UGA forced only 13 turnovers, and in the SEC, only Vanderbilt forced fewer. UGA’s one loss was impacted severely by a minus-4 turnover margin. Georgia probably needs to go plus-1 or -2 to have a good shot at LSU, and we can see it doing that. Richard LeCounte has a big play or two at the ready.
3. LSU may struggle in the red zone
Georgia was a solid offensive team in the red zone, scoring on 47 of its 49 red zone possessions this season. Thirty-three of those scores were touchdowns, a rate of 67.3 percent, which is in the upper half of the SEC. While LSU was also very, very good in the red zone (47 touchdowns in 61 red zone visits), the Georgia defense was superb in those situations. Opponents made it to the UGA red zone 21 times but reached the end zone only eight (38.1 percent). LSU, on the other hand, allowed touchdowns in 19 of 32 red zone situations (59.4 percent). If Georgia can trade 7s for LSU’s 3s, that might let the Bulldogs outscore the Tigers.
4. D’Andre Swift comes up big for UGA
Georgia will probably stay fairly close to the vest, particularly early given the first-half loss of receiver George Pickens. When UGA has been in tough situations, it has given the ball to Swift. His two highest-carry games this year were the Florida win and the South Carolina loss. Swift has had 20 carries in only three games, but we see 25 for 115 yards as he keeps the Bulldogs in the game.
5. Ja’Marr Chase is the standout for LSU
Georgia will do a pretty good job on Justin Jefferson outside, but Chase is all but unstoppable in space. In his past five games (which included Auburn, Alabama and Texas A&M), he has had between 6 and 8 catches and 123 and 227 yards in each game. Yes, Georgia is good. But put Chase down for 7 catches for 150 yards.
6. Georgia leads at the half, but Burrow rallies LSU
Georgia has a little more to play for, it will be focused and it will run its relatively conservative game plan. This will be a high-scoring affair for a Georgia game, but after a couple of early turnovers by LSU and a drive or two ending in field goals, UGA will have a halftime lead. In the fourth quarter, though, Joe Burrow will do Joe Burrow things. He’ll put the exclamation point on his Heisman season and lead LSU to a comeback 31-27 win.