Georgia vs. LSU: Why the Bulldogs Have a Shot at the SEC Crown

Matt SmithCorrespondent IIIDecember 3, 2011

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 26: Abry Jones #93, Chris Conley #31, and Branden Smith #1 of the Georgia Bulldogs celebrate after the game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

LSU has run through one of the most difficult gauntlets any team has raced in the BCS era, and will likely play in the BCS Championship Game regardless of how it fares in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia.

The Bulldogs have made it to Atlanta after an 0-2 start that left Mark Richt's job status in question. They've won 10 in a row, thanks in part to a defense that has clicked in Todd Grantham's second year running his 3-4 scheme, and in part to a very soft schedule that did not include Alabama, Arkansas or LSU.

The Tigers will enter the Georgia Dome as a two-touchdown favorite to win their fourth SEC title in 11 years. They've been pushed only once, in an overtime classic at Alabama.

Despite the dominance of the Bayou Bengals, Georgia is capable of pulling off a major upset on Saturday afternoon. By focusing on these three areas, Georgia could become the first team to knock off No. 1 since Missouri beat Oklahoma some 58 weeks ago.


1.  Air It Out

Star freshman receiver Malcolm Mitchell will likely be contained by LSU’s Morris Claiborne, but the Bulldogs have other weapons with Tavarres King, Michael Bennett and Mackey Award finalist Orson Charles. Arkansas struggled to keep Tyler Wilson upright against the Tigers, but Georgia’s offensive line is much better than the Razorbacks’.

Don’t expect much on the ground from a less-than-100-percent Isaiah Crowell, but West Virginia put up a good fight with LSU without any sort of rushing attack. While Tyrann Mathieu is a playmaker, he's not as natural a defender as Claiborne. While exploiting a player who was mentioned as a Heisman Trophy contender for much of the season is no easy task, that may be Georgia's best chance.

The Bulldogs will be hoping to repear their 34-14 victory over LSU in the 2005 SEC Championship Game.
The Bulldogs will be hoping to repear their 34-14 victory over LSU in the 2005 SEC Championship Game.Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images


2. Defend Horizontally

Even mighty Alabama eventually succumbed to LSU's speed option attack with Jordan Jefferson, so that will again be a key piece of the Tigers attack against the 'Dawgs.

Georgia has the speed to prevent LSU from stretching the field. Kwame Geathers and John Jenkins have solidified the all-important nose guard role, freeing up an outstanding linebacker corps. Jarvis Jones and Cornelius Washington have gotten the pressure from the outside linebacker spots necessary for the scheme to be effective.

Georgia’s secondary is the best LSU has faced other than Alabama, so the Bulldogs should be able to contain the Tigers' passing game. Defending the speed option is no easy task, but having just faced Georgia Tech will help the Bulldogs prepare to defend sideline to sideline.


3. Find the Blair Walsh of 2010

Walsh was thought to be a major asset for Georgia in the kicking game, but has struggled with inconsistency all season.

He did connect on all four field-goal attempts in the division clincher against Kentucky, but had two key misses against Florida and his failed 33-yard attempt against South Carolina was the difference in a three-point loss.

There's no doubting Walsh's ability, and points will be at a premium against the LSU defense. Field goals will be wins against the Tigers, so Walsh has to be the kicker who made himself the leading candidate for the Groza Award in the preseason.