How Georgia Could Beat LSU
Redemption in the ATL.
The SEC had five of the top defenses in the country in 2011: LSU, BAMA, UGA, Carolina, Florida. Easily the top three defenses in the SEC this season played for the University of Alabama, Louisiana State University and the University of Georgia. Georgia leads the nation in limiting plays of twenty or more yards. UGA leads the SEC in sacks. UGA is second in the conference in team turnover margin. Of those three schools, only one is quite highly ranked in total offense.
Aaron Murray led the SEC in passing efficiency and touchdown passes while shattering the UGA single season touchdown record. In just his sophomore campaign, Murray threw for more strikes in a year than Matthew Stafford did before he was the number one overall NFL pick, than David Greene did as he became the all-time winningest quarterback in college football history, than Eric Zeier did as he set the SEC career yardage mark. He did it to little fanfare outside of the state because UGA had already dropped two games to ranked teams to start the season. And he did not receive the attention he deserves because the second half of his season was much greater than the first as he matured like a second year quarterback can only dream of, and because the SEC East was unusually weak. Georgia was diminished because the historically best division in NCAA football happened to be down this season. But the West had only three good teams, and Arkansas has beaten no one besides a Carolina squad after they lost their weapons. Actually, Bama has beaten no one of note besides a home win over Arkansas and has failed to win their division for two straight years, finishing fourth in the West last year. The East was certainly down this year, though UGA faced Tennessee on the road when they still had the top passing offense in the conference, though UGA faced Florida in Jacksonville where the Gators were starting a senior quarterback and two senior running backs and had a top ten defense and an 18-of-21 mark, though UGA faced South Carolina when they had a full compliment of weapons ready to defend the East title and pushed them around before fading 45-42 after numerous special teams gaffes and unusual plays.
The Boise loss has resonated in the minds of the nation, but Boise has never lost to a BCS team since their current coach has been in place. I took some grief from a reader for saying UGA should not have scheduled that game, but the plain reality is that if we had somehow won we would have been doing what Oklahoma, Oregon (twice) and Virginia Tech failed to do in years their programs were repeated conference champions and BCS bowl teams – and we would have been doing it in the season opener without a proven offensive identity while starting our youngest team since I first attended UGA in 1990 and coming off a bad year. Our freshmen receivers and runner had absolutely no possibility of being ready for that game. All the betting trends said we should lose that football game, and as is usually the case with Vegas in a situation like that, we did. We lost by two touchdowns and the game is recalled as a total blowout. Carolina was simply a matter of a young Georgia mentally finding out how to close teams out and get big wins after losing eight of fourteen football games prior. Mental.
Georgia has the third-longest active winning streak in football. Only the undefeated Houston Cougars of Conference USA and the Bayou Bengals have won more consecutive games. Georgia can move into second on that list, or first if the Cougars are upset by a strong Southern Miss squad. Here’s how: Crowell must play and play well because we need his combination of power, speed and explosiveness to offset their defensive aggression. And Georgia must protect the football. Every other factor favors or is an even for UGA when comparing the two teams side-by-side. Oregon and West Virginia put up big yardage on LSU and were in those games until they started turning the ball over. Both of those teams have gone on to lose games since. Bama has no passing offense to speak of this season but had LSU whipped if they did not repeatedly choke. Bama in no way has done anything in two full years to deserve a national title shot, by the way – but no other team stood up this season besides small conference Houston…and suddenly a two-loss Georgia. The favorite may win Saturday propelling LSU to their only undefeated year since the 1950s, if they can survive Bama again. History says any SEC team on a ten-game winning streak has a very good chance to win any football game. At fourteen points, I am sure that this is by far the biggest point spread a consecutive ten-game winner in the SEC has ever faced playing in their home state. In fact, UGA may be the only underdog ever under such circumstances, meaning this is wholly unchartered territory for an SEC team on a roll like Georgia is to be getting so little respect. One big win here could change a lot of minds quickly. Can UGA shock the world and actually get into the should-have-maybe-been-considered-for-the-national-championship-game talk again? Trends say maybe.