SEC Championship Game: Breaking Down LSU vs Georgia Unit by Unit
With the 2011 SEC football regular season in the rear-view mirror, we will focus our attention on Saturday's SEC Championship game between Georgia and LSU.
The Bulldogs fought back from an 0-2 start to the season to get to the title game, as the Tigers battled to an undefeated record to secure their spot in Atlanta. The two will tangle for the right to be called the champion of the Southeastern Conference.
LSU is almost a two touchdown favorite over Georgia, but expect an intense battle for the conference crown.
In this slideshow, we will look at each unit and break down what talent each team has and how things may unfold in the Georgia Dome.
Georgia Passing Offense
The Bulldogs are led in the passing game by star quarterback Aaron Murray. The sophomore QB averages 225 passing yards per game and has the highest passer rating in the SEC (155).
Much of his success surround accuracy and taking care of the football. Murray has 32 touchdown passes to just 10 interceptions on the season and completes over 61 percent of his throws. He has been on fire lately, throwing for four or more touchdown passes in three of Georgia's last four games.
He will be constantly pressured against a tough LSU defense, but has done well against solid defenses this season, including a 240-yard, four touchdown performance in a loss to South Carolina earlier this season.
Murray has a solid group of receivers to throw to, which has helped him produce such impressive stats. Two freshmen, Malcolm Mitchell—with 34 receptions for 582 yards and four touchdowns—and Michael Bennett, who has 31 catches for 316 yards and five touchdowns, have given a nice spark to the Bulldog receiving corps in 2011.
Murray can also find reliable and experienced targets in junior tight end Orson Charles and junior wide out Tavarres King. The two have combined for 12 touchdowns on the year.
LSU Passing Offense
Jordan Jefferson, suspended at the beggining of the season for a bar fight incident, has taken back the starting quarterback job from Jarrett Lee, who was having a solid season with 14 touchdown passes to just three interceptions on the year.
The coaches believe Jefferson brings a more dynamic skill set to the position and have decided to let him lead the Tigers to the finish line.
He has been effective in his recent play, as he has connected on 64 percent of his passes and thrown five touchdowns to just one interception. Not to mention the 253 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns he has produced.
His running ability will be a key this weekend, as the Georgia defense will have to defend against his arm and his legs.
When Jefferson throws, he has one of the best receivers in the conference to target in junior Rueben Randle. The talented wide-out has hauled in 48 passes for 889 yards and eight scores.
In addition to Randle, LSU has talented pass catchers in freshman Odell Beckham and junior Russell Sheppard.
It is an edge for Georgia in the passing game.
Georgia averages 243 passing yards a game this season, and LSU averages 171 pass yards per contest.
While the relentless LSU defense will hinder Georgia's passing efforts, the Bulldogs have the better quarterback and the better tight end and should slightly out-pass LSU on Saturday.
Georgia Rushing Offense
Injuries have been a problem for Georgia in the running game. If healthy, stud freshman running back Isaiah Crowell can make a big impact on games.
If he can't go, or is limited, the depth at the running back position for Georgia is very light and could cripple the Bulldogs.
Everything out of Athens says the frosh back will be able to go on Saturday.
Crowell is fifth in the SEC in average rush yards per game, with 83 yards per outing, and has five rushing touchdowns on the year.
LSU Rushing Offense
The Tigers are blessed at the running back position, with as many as three backs that can effectively carry the rock and a quarterback that can effectively scramble.
Michael Ford and Spencer Ware, LSU's star backs, have combined for over 1,400 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns this season.
Then on occasion, they run sophomore tailback Alfred Blue, who has six touchdowns on the year.
The Tiger backfield is averaging over five yards per carry as a group.
The Tigers are second in the SEC in average rush yards per game, with an impressive 215 yards per game. Georgia isn't far behind, fourth in the conference with 180 rush yards per outing.
LSU has the advantage in running the football, with a corps of backs that can get the job done.
Crowell is good for Georgia, but his health is in question, and the depth is light.
Georgia Passing Defense
In the two games that Georgia lost to start the season, missing was star safety Bacarri Rambo. Since his return in Week 3, the Bulldogs are undefeated. Could be a coincidence and could be bacause he makes big impacts on games.
Rambo, in just 10 games, leads the SEC in interceptions with seven picks on the year.
With star cornerback Brandon Boykin and safety Shawn Williams joining Rambo in the Bulldog defensive secondary, Georgia has a formadable group defending the pass.
With linebacker Jarvis Jones, who leads the SEC in sacks with an impressive 13.5 quarterback take-downs, and defensive lineman Abry Jones pressuring the quarterback, Georgia limits the time an opposing quarterback has to stand in the pocket.
LSU Passing Defense
There isn't a more intense and attacking defense in the nation. LSU flys to the ball and creates chaos along the line of scimmage.
Cornerback Tyrann Mathieu is the top defensive player in the country and disrupts opposing offenses early and often.
He is joined in the secondary by star cornerback Morris Claiborne, who is second in the SEC in interceptions.
The pass rush is solid, with big defensive linemen Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo attacking the quarterback for LSU. The two big and athletic linemen have combined for 15 sacks on the year.
This will go down as a tie as well.
LSU allows just 162 passing yards per game, and Georgia allows only 176 passing yards per game.
LSU has the better overall defense, based on their ability to disrupt plays and create havoc near the line of scrimmage. However, both teams can defend the pass very well and should both keep the opposing passing game in check this weekend.
Georgia Passing Defense
The Bulldogs will rely on star linebacker Jarvis Jones to have a big game. He leads the SEC with 19.5 tackles for a loss and is a big run stopper.
Big 351-pound defensive tackle Johnathan Jenkins provides a plug in the middle of the defensive front and helps plug up running hols in the middle.
If the run goes outside, a fast and athletic linebacking corps, including Jones, Alec Olgetree and Mike Gilliard, can fly to the ball.
LSU Passing Defense
The Tigers will lean on linebacker Ryan Baker and a solid defensive line to limit the Bulldogs rushing yards on Saturday.
LSU sends pressure in the backfield on almost every down, with defensive back Tyrann Mathieu and defensive linemen Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, who have combined for an incredible 25.5 tackles for a loss this season, and Baker filling up the running lanes.
LSU has sure tacklers and rarely allow an opposing running back to grind out may yards.
LSU has the slight edge in run defense.
The Tigers have allowed 86 rush yards per game in 2011. Georgia isn't far behind, giving up only 95 rush yards per contest.
Look for LSU to slow down Isaiah Crowell more than Georgia slows down Spencer Ware and Michael Ford.
Georgia Special Teams
Georgia is averaging just seven yards per punt return, but have averaged over 23 yards per kickoff retun this season.
Brandon Boykin, who handles kickoff returns, is a dangerous kick returner and has over 700 return yards on the season. He will be a key in attaining field position for Georgia this weekend.
Georgia is second to last in field goal accuracy, making just 19 field goals in 31 attempts. Senior place kicker Blair Walsh has had a disappointing season.
LSU Special Teams
LSU has been effective in punt and kickoff returns. The Tigers are averaging 12 yards per punt return and 22 yards per kickoff return.
Tyran Mathieu, returning punts, and Morris Claiborne, returning kickoffs, are both fast and elusive and have both returned a kick for a touchdown this season.
Morris leads the SEC in yards per kick return, and Mathieu is second in the conference in yards per punt return.
LSU, and place kicker Drew Alleman, are tops in the conference in field goal accuracy, connecting on 16 of 18 field goal attemps.
LSU has a significant advantage in special teams.
The kick returners have been better for the TIgers, as has the field goal unit.
Much like the Alabama game, special teams could be an important factor in this game.
When breaking down the game unit by unit, we find that Georgia has the advantage over LSU in the passing game, if only slightly.
We can also see that the pass defense is pretty equal between Georgia and LSU.
However, LSU takes the advantage, and the the game, by having the advantage in the run game, rushing defense and special teams.
My prediction: LSU 31-Georgia 16