LSU vs. Georgia: Bulldogs Prove They're Still a Player in National Title Race

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterSeptember 29, 2013

They were down, but they're not out. The No. 9 Georgia Bulldogs kept their national title hopes alive on Saturday afternoon between the hedges with a thrilling 44-41 win over No. 6 LSU in a game that featured two elite offenses trading haymakers all day long.

In the end, it was Georgia that landed the knockout blow.

Quarterback Aaron Murray hit wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley down the sideline for a 25-yard touchdown with 1:47 to play. It capped off a drive in which Murray—who has long been criticized for not being a big-time player—went 4-of-4 for 55 yards.

Talk about clutch.

"It's not about me," Murray told ESPN after the game. "It's about this team. I'm proud of this team and what we've done this month. It's been a brutal first month, I think we've grown up a lot, matured and proven to the nation that Georgia's for real."

Georgia QB Aaron Murray
Georgia QB Aaron MurrayDaniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Don't look now, but Georgia is still very much a player in the national title race.

Sure, the loss to No. 3 Clemson on opening night eliminated the Bulldogs' margin for error, but the SEC has cannibalized itself in each of the two seasons, and Georgia could be the beneficiary this season if some dominoes fall around the country.

The biggest domino out there is, of course, Clemson. Despite being in the downtrodden ACC, undefeated Clemson would get the benefit of the doubt over every one-loss SEC champion thanks to its victory over the Bulldogs and also what would be a win over a strong South Carolina team at the end of the year.

Besides Clemson and an unbeaten Oregon or Stanford, who's going to stand in the way?

Georgia QB Aaron Murray (left) with WR Michael Bennett
Georgia QB Aaron Murray (left) with WR Michael BennettDale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Undefeated Ohio State? Not with that schedule.

Louisville? Come on.

Florida State? Well, maybe. But the Seminoles have to get by Clemson and Florida first.

Georgia's biggest obstacle is its own conference.

Georgia has already passed its biggest test. LSU came in as the most complete team in the SEC, and Georgia's offense confused that secondary like it had no clue what was coming. This was without star running back Todd Gurley in the lineup for the majority of the game to draw safeties up.

The showdown in early November with Florida will be interesting because the Gators have what could be the best defense in the SEC. But just how good will the Gators offense be at that point? 

Georgia HC Mark Richt
Georgia HC Mark RichtDaniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

I know, I know. Georgia's defense is suspect. I get it, and you're right.

But there isn't a defense on the planet—not in college football or the NFL—that could have slowed down LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger on Saturday. Double coverage...triple coverage...it didn't matter. Mettenberger threaded every needle in the building.

The Bulldogs were forced into a shootout—without one of their key offensive pieces—and prevailed. In this day and age of diverse offenses, defense doesn't win championships; "good enough" defenses win championships.

Georgia already has wins over two Top 15 teams on its resume and will likely have another if it makes it to and beats the SEC West representative in the SEC championship game. Computers will love that.

For the viewing public's sake, let's hope that's LSU, because Saturday's game between the hedges was an instant classic.

The margin for error is gone, and the Bulldogs can't lose anymore. If they don't, expect the Bulldogs to be playing in Pasadena in mid-January.


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