LSU Tigers vs. Georgia Bulldogs Complete Game Preview
The unblemished LSU Tigers will play the No. 9 Georgia Bulldogs in the most heavily anticipated game of the week on Saturday.
Uncle Verne and Gary Danielson will be on the call for a game packed with BCS bowl implications. There will be no shortage of storylines for CBS to follow.
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger was once at Georgia. Mettenberger was kicked off the team in 2010, eventually landing in Baton Rouge. He was in a quarterback battle with current Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray at the time.
But the main attraction will be the play on the field. Both teams boast explosive offenses and athletic defenses.
Here are a few important notes for Saturday.
Time: 3:30 ET, 2:30 CT
Place: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.
Spread: Georgia by 3, via ScoresandOdds.com
Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer break down the rematch of the 2011 SEC Championship Game.
Highlights courtesy of xosdigital.com.
LSU Keys to Victory
Slow Down Georgia's Rushing Attack
Todd Gurley is a man-child. He is college football's Marshawn Lynch, better known as "Beast Mode." Keith Marshall is the best backup running back in the SEC.
Like LSU's fullback J.C. Copeland, Georgia's Quayvon Hicks is a former defensive lineman who is a devastating lead blocker.
The trio of Gurley, Marshall and Hicks will be put to the test against LSU. The Tigers have a formidable front, led by defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Anthony "Freak" Johnson.
LSU's linebackers Kwon Alexander, Lamin Barrow and D.J. Welter all played well against Auburn, recording 32 combined tackles.
LSU allowed Auburn's Tre Mason to run for 132 yards last week. The Bayou Bengals showed some fatigue and poor fundamentals late. Backups will need to play big.
Michael Felder, in the above video, demonstrates what LSU needs to do to slow down "Gurshall." He believes the Tigers' front can cause enough disruption, thus ultimately being the deciding factor in LSU winning the game.
Win Special Teams
When the gap in talent between two teams is so close, special teams is usually the deciding factor.
Georgia ranks last in the SEC in kickoff coverage, mainly due to their poor outing against North Texas last week. Brelan Chancellor returned a kick 99 yards for a touchdown.
Georgia punter Collin Barber has an explosive leg, but he should be careful to not out-kick his coverage.
Odell Beckham Jr. is lethal in the return game. Beckham Jr. can break open a game if given any space on any return.
Les Miles is also known for fakes at any time in a big game.
LSU's kicker Colby Delahoussaye has yet to miss a field goal. But none of his kicks have been of great distance. Can he make 45-yarder with the game on the line in the fourth quarter?
Georgia Keys to Victory
Tackle in the Open Field
Georgia's defense is talented, but young. They were exposed against Clemson and South Carolina to start the season. They improved against North Texas.
Now the Bulldogs have Jeremy Hill and the LSU offense coming to Athens.
Hill is LSU's best running back. He makes tacklers miss with an array of moves. He proved so against Auburn, breaking long runs after making defensive backs miss in the open field.
Georgia played a similar back to Hill in South Carolina's Mike Davis, who rushed for 149 yards two weeks ago against the Bulldogs. Hill is better than Davis and can easily have a field day.
Georgia must also wrap up receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, as they are both elusive with the ball in their hands.
Diversify Offensive Play Calls
Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has received his fair share of criticism in his career. But so far in 2013, his offense put up huge numbers.
Bobo does have excellent options to chose from offensively. He must use all of them on Saturday to pick apart LSU.
To open up space for Gurley, Bobo needs to take shots deep. Georgia's Justin Scott-Wesley, Chris Conley and Michael Bennett have shown explosion in the passing game.
Gurley and Keith Marshall are great receivers out of the backfield. Tight end Arthur Lynch is a massive target who punished linebackers.
LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis feasts on predictability. Georgia has the weapons, and the quarterback in Aaron Murray, to move the football against any defense.
Players to Watch for LSU
Zach Mettenberger's first SEC road start of 2013 could not be met with more pressure.
Mettenberger will play his toughest opponent yet. He has shown his improvements in the passing game. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron will have a great game plan and receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. will get open against Georgia.
But it's the off-the-field buzz that will loom large.
The emotions will run high on Saturday for Mettenberger. It his critical for him to keep his cool, because the mood of the team resembles the mood of the quarterback.
No player on LSU's defense has been criticized more than linebacker D.J. Welter. Welter has missed tackles and does not have the athleticism of his backups.
But Welter does play middle linebacker, replacing All-SEC performer Kevin Minter from a year ago. He is on the field for his ability to get players lined up correctly.
Welter had his best game of the season against Auburn. He raked in a team-high 11 tackles.
Welter now has Georgia's Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall to worry about. Welter must play big between the tackles. If not, LSU has plenty of backups to fill his role.
Players to Watch for Georgia
Arthur Lynch could be the best kept secret of the deep Georgia offense. Lynch could be the best tight end in the SEC.
LSU linebackers will be keyed on stopping the run. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo loves play action. He will certainly look to find Lynch to move the chains.
Look for the Tigers to guard Lynch man-to-man with linebacker Kwon Alexander. LSU feels comfortable with Alexander against most receivers.
Expect Lynch to catch at least four passes against LSU. It is up to the Tigers to keep them to minimal gains and out of the end zone.
Georgia's secondary has been less-than-stellar. Nobody expected them to look their best against potent Clemson and South Carolina to start the season.
North Texas was not much better last week. Georgia allowed 238 yards passing.
Damian Swann is Georgia's best defensive back. Swann allowed Mean Green receiver Darnell Smith a touchdown over-the-top for 20 yards in the second quarter.
Swann will now have his hands full with Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Swann will need to inspire the Bulldogs defensive backs to a better performance against LSU. If not, Zach Mettenberger will pick the Bulldogs apart.
What They Are Saying
ESPN's College GameDay will be in Athens on Saturday. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows why this is not good news for Bulldogs fans.
"The Bulldogs are 3-12 when ESPN's College GameDay preview show is on site for one of their games."
Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo believes Murray is underappreciated, via Seth Emerson of Macon.com:
Personally I think he’s taken for granted. All he does is get us in the right play, and throws the ball to the open receiver. Yeah we missed a couple, but everybody misses a couple. You’re not gonna hit every pass. We want to hit every pass, but you throw a bad ball, you make a bad decision every (now and then).
Zach Mettenberger told his teammates his return to Athens will not be a distraction, via The Washington Post:
"I don’t want any outside media or spotlight on myself or my relationship with Georgia to take away from this game and the experience for all the other guys," he said.
Les Miles was not pleased with his team's performance in the second half against Auburn, per Glenn Guilbeau of USA Today:
"We took a strong lead initially, but I just didn't like how we finished," Miles said after the Tigers allowed 333 yards in the second half to a team that gained just 41 in the first quarter and 104 by halftime.
"We're pleased to a point, but we're not satisfied. We had taken an early lead – 21 to zip. From that point forward, we have to finish this. We certainly can play better."
The last two times the teams have met in Georgia, LSU has come out on top. In the SEC Championship Game in 2011, LSU pummeled Georgia, 42-10, in Atlanta. In 2009, the Tigers squeaked by the Bulldogs, 20-13, in Athens, thanks to some late drama and a Charles Scott touchdown.
LSU and Georgia are similar in so many ways in 2013.
Both teams are known for their historically suffocating defenses. But this season, the offenses are leading the charge.
There is not a big gap between both offenses. Georgia is probably slightly ahead of LSU, especially if they are at home.
But LSU's defense is better than Georgia's. The Bulldogs defense has not proven it can stop anybody efficiently, even though the unit has played better teams than the Tigers.
The Georgia offensive line is better than people think, which ultimately will be the difference at home. But this game can go either way.
Georgia needs this game more than LSU. The Bulldogs will have two losses if they fall to the Tigers. LSU can still win out and make it to the SEC Championship Game if they are to lose to Georgia. With their backs against the wall, the Bulldogs must find a way to break through against LSU.
Georgia 31 — LSU 28