Georgia Bulldogs vs. LSU Tigers: Complete Game Preview
When Georgia takes the field on Saturday, it will be against yet another Top-10 team, the LSU Tigers.
Here's what you need to know:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 28
Time: 3:30 p.m. EST
Place: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.
Radio: Georgia Bulldog Radio Network
Spread: Georgia by 3, via 5Dimes
The Program previews Georgia vs. LSU.
Georgia Keys to Victory
The Dawgs' special teams play has been so poor as of late that it has inspired its own mockery of a Twitter account. One of the few schools in the SEC without a dedicated coach for this area, here are a few of the recent lowlights from Georgia's special teams unit:
- Starting kicker Marshall Morgan missed the first two games of the season with a suspension following an arrest for boating under the influence.
- Georgia lost to Clemson by three points in Week 1 on the road and, in the process, missed a chip shot field goal opportunity thanks to a poor snap and hold.
- Against North Texas last week, Georgia allowed a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
- Last week, Morgan returned to play but missed a field goal late in the second quarter.
- Also last week, Georgia had a punt blocked and recovered by North Texas in the end zone for a touchdown.
No one expects the Bulldogs to win the game with their kicking and punting game, but the Dawgs sure could lose with another performance like last week.
Georgia's defense quietly put together a really nice game against North Texas, allowing just 245 yards of offense and only seven yards on the ground. LSU's offense, however, will bring a lot of fire power. The Tigers have averaged 43.3 points per game this season and are racking up over 480 yards of offense per game.
LSU is going to make plays through the air and on the ground. Georgia's defense, particularly its defensive backs, must be prepared to shake off bad plays and get ready for the next snap.
LSU Keys to Victory
Managing the Crowd
The Sanford Stadium crowd of 92,746 was able to adversely affect the South Carolina Gamecocks a few weeks ago. The same should be expected this week, especially with former Georgia quarterback Zach Mettenberger under center for the Tigers.
LSU is accustomed to loud environments, but Georgia's young defense can still be bolstered by crowd enthusiasm. The Tigers must strike early.
Run the Football
Georgia was able to stop North Texas' running game, but LSU brings a different caliber of athlete to the line of scrimmage. If LSU can run on the Dawgs, and many teams have been able to recently, the Tigers will be able to keep Georgia's equally prolific offense off of the field.
In just four games LSU has already run the ball more than 160 times for nearly 900 yards. This will be a crucial aspect of Les Miles' game plan.
Players to Watch for Georgia
Murray had a great game against South Carolina just a few weeks ago and will be looking to further shed his poor, big-game reputation. Murray must avoid the hype of the game and open early drives with composure. Calculated accuracy, not forced passes, will be the key to his success.
Gurley may be the best running back in the nation, but North Texas showed that stacking the box can contain him. If Gurley can continue to run hard against stacked boxes, he will open up Murray's passing game.
After registering only 44 yards receiving in the Bulldogs' first two games, the preseason All-SEC selection broke out with four catches for 85 yards last weekend. LSU's defense will be stout and will likely force Georgia into several third-and-long situations. Look for Lynch lurking in the middle of the field as a downfield release for Aaron Murray.
Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson
Herrera and Wilson have served the Dawgs well from their middle linebacker positions as the duo has accounted for over 60 tackles for the Bulldogs. Their ability to maintain lane integrity while shedding blockers will be instrumental in the Bulldogs' attempt to stop the LSU running game.
Players to Watch for LSU
Undoubtedly, Mettenberger is already tired of hearing about this game and his shaky history at the University of Georgia. By all accounts, he's come a long way as a person and as a player since his departure from Athens, and Saturday will give him the opportunity to demonstrate that growth.
He's hit on nearly 65 percent of his passes while throwing 10 TDs and just one interception, but this game poses the biggest mental challenge he's faced this season.
In just four games, Beckham has accounted for 790 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns. He'll have plenty of opportunities to make plays against Georgia's young defensive backs and Georgia's inconsistent special teams coverage. If LSU comes away with the win, Beckham may be the MVP.
What They Are Saying
Aaron Murray Might Not Have Stayed at Georgia
Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph asked Murray what would have happened if Zach Mettenberger had stayed in Athens. Murray responded, "I doubt both of us would have stayed."
Mettenberger on His Return to Athens
When asked about the meaning of this week's game, Mettenberger told Jim Kleinpeter of The Times-Picayune that, "It's another SEC team we'll have to prepare hard for. We expect a lot of challenges. We'll have to focus to get the win." He added that he's very much ready for the relief that Sunday morning will bring.
Les Miles on His Team's Strengths and Weaknesses
Les Miles talked with David Ching of ESPN.com and summed up his team saying:
I think our players are as talented as we've ever had and I think there's a maturity that needs to take place so they can play with their cleats headed north and south and ready to make a tackle and show the style of confidence, if you will, that other defenses that have played in this uniform have shown. I think that's coming. I see it, in last week, better in certain spots and certainly that's got to continue.
Thus far, LSU has looked like the best team in the SEC. The Tigers defense, although not yet reloaded, seems better than the product that Alabama is currently offering. And offensively speaking, LSU trails only Texas A&M in points per game.
For Georgia to win, a near-perfect game is going to be required, and the Bulldogs have not been able to consistently display that type of discipline. The Bulldogs got close to that level of play in their win against South Carolina, but the Tigers present a more potent threat than the Gamecocks.
LSU will bring an offense that is scoring at a higher clip than Clemson to Athens, and the Tigers will bring a hungry defense.
Turnovers, penalties and special teams errors must be completely avoided by the Bulldogs, and the Dawgs will still need some help from the crowd. If Georgia plays mistake-free football and the Sanford Stadium crowd is able to affect Mettenberger and the LSU offense, the Bulldogs will have a chance.
Otherwise, LSU wins this game.