Why Georgia vs. LSU, Not Alabama vs. Texas A&M, Will Be the Game of the Year
Here we are in the midst of spring practice, but it's never too early to start making plans for some of the biggest games of the SEC season.
Most of the attention this offseason will be directed towards the Alabama vs. Texas A&M game on Sept. 14 in College Station.
With good reason.
The combination of revenge for the defending BCS national champs and the presence of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel makes that matchup extra spicy.
But another September game is flying under the radar, and it's one that could have a big impact on both division title races.
LSU at Georgia between the hedges in Athens on Sept. 28.
Both teams have a ton of questions facing them this offseason, but should be battle-tested by the time they meet.
LSU is being slightly overlooked this offseason due to so much roster turnover, but head coach Les Miles has recruited well. Sure, like Georgia, he has lost a laundry list of stars off his defense; but if there's any team in America outside of Tuscaloosa that can fill holes on defense, it's LSU.
Defensive tackle Bennie Logan leaves, Ego Ferguson steps in alongside Anthony Johnson. Defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery bolt to the NFL, Jermauria Rasco slides in. Cornerback Tharold Simon leaves, Jalen Collins steps in to a bigger role opposite Jalen Mills. No Kevin Minter at linebacker? Lamin Barrow and Kwon Alexander are there to pick up the slack.
Offensively, the Tigers were the punch line of most jokes outside of Gainesville and Auburn last season. But they get virtually every impact player back, upgraded with new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and have looked good so far in spring practice. Yes, even quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
Just because LSU has some questions doesn't mean that they will go unanswered. With TCU looming to start the season, they'll be answered in a hurry.
With quarterback Aaron Murray, running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, a veteran offensive line and experienced wide receiving corps, Georgia is set offensively.
The big question is on defense, where 10 key contributors from last year's squad including linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree have moved on to greener pastures. But the Bulldogs struggled against the run last season, and guys like outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins, defensive end Garrison Smith and cornerback Damian Swann are in position to take more of a leadership role in the new-look Bulldog D.
Who will play the 2013 SEC Championship Game?
It also could be a make-or-break game for Georgia.
The Bulldogs' traditional SEC opener with South Carolina will be played in Week 2 in 2013, after a one-year move to the middle of the schedule. Lose that, and it's hard to imagine a scenario in which Georgia can win the East with two conference losses and down a tiebreaker to the Gamecocks. Win it, and Georgia could make a big statement to the rest of the SEC and country with wins over South Carolina and LSU in the first month.
For LSU, it's all about a statement as well.
Both teams will likely land in the preseason Top 15. If LSU can get by TCU and then knock off Georgia on the road, it will not only signal that the Tigers reloaded instead of rebuilt, but confirm their presence as a legitimate national title contender.
For all the reasons that the country is excited about Alabama at Texas A&M matchup in Week 3, LSU at Georgia in Week 5 could carry just as much importance but have more of an impact in the actual outcome of the conference title race.
Should be a lot of fun in the Classic City on Sept. 28.
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