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Georgia vs. LSU: Preview and Predictions for SEC Championship 2019

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 7, 2019

LSU Tigers wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) celebrates a touchdown against Arkansas with LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson (2) in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
Matthew Hinton/Associated Press

The No. 2 LSU Tigers face their fifth Top 10 opponent of the season in Saturday's SEC Championship Game. And though the No. 4 Georgia Bulldogs are not the highest-ranked team the SEC West champions will play, they could be the toughest.

Kirby Smart's team owns the best defense in the SEC, and it stifled every foe it has come across since falling to the South Carolina Gamecocks on Oct. 12. LSU counters with one of the top scoring offenses in the FBS—one that produced at least 50 points the last three weeks.

If Ed Orgeron's Tigers leave Mercedes-Benz Stadium with a win, they will lock up a College Football Playoff berth. The same can be said about the Bulldogs, but they may be joined by the Tigers in the final four if that scenario plays out.

                  

Preview

The clash between LSU's offense and Georgia's defense is one of the most intriguing matchups of championship weekend.

The Tigers average 560.4 total yards, 390.0 passing yards and 48.7 points per game, all second-best totals in the FBS. Georgia ranks second in points and rushing yards allowed per game and sits fourth in total yards conceded per contest.

Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

A week ago, the Bulldogs held the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets to 139 total yards and seven points. That follows the trend they have set since stumbling at home in mid-October. The SEC East champions conceded 51 points in the last six games and earned shutouts versus Kentucky and Missouri.

In the same span, LSU produced 269 points, including 46 versus Alabama and at least 50 each against Ole Miss, Arkansas and Texas A&M. On the season, Alabama conceded 18.8 points per game, while Texas A&M (22.7 points allowed per game) and Ole Miss (26.5 points per game) both possessed stingy defenses.

That would suggest LSU finds a way to solve Georgia's defense through Heisman Trophy favorite Joe Burrow and 1,000-yard wide receivers Ja'Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson. LSU was held under 30 once, by Auburn, and still put up 508 total yards.

Burrow told reporters:

"I don't want to go into a game thinking every drive's not going to end in a score. I think we get disappointed if we don't score, so I think going into this game, we're going to keep our same mentality. We're going to attack, we're going to go fast, we're going to throw the ball down the field, but also understanding that this is one of the best defenses in the country, so you're going to have to take what the defense gives you and march the ball down the field. They're not going to give you anything easy."

Georgia's offense did not eclipse 30 points from Oct. 12 to Nov. 23, and it hit that number in SEC play just twice: versus Tennessee and Vanderbilt. While Burrow has six straight 300-plus-yard passing outings, Jake Fromm has not reached that mark once in 2019.

With receiver Lawrence Cager out and four defensive backs with multiple interceptions roaming the secondary, the Georgia junior will likely struggle to keep up with his LSU counterpart. And the Bulldogs offense could also be hampered by D'Andre Swift's situation, as the running back is dealing with a shoulder injury, and Smart told reporters he is "banged up":

John Amis/Associated Press

"He's had a banged-up shoulder a lot of the year—a lot of the guys have. Brian Herrien's had it. A couple of players have had similar injuries. He's dealt with it, played with it. I won't say it's a common injury, but we've had a lot of guys who have had that same injury. He's been dealing with it, and it came to a head Saturday. He had a couple of hits earlier where he did fall on it."

Swift averages 6.2 yards per carry and recorded at least 65 rushing yards in each of Georgia's 12 contests. LSU allows 124.5 rushing yards per game, so the opportunity could be there, but to keep up with the Tigers, the Bulldogs need Fromm and Swift to play at their peak levels.

            

Prediction

LSU 31, Georgia 17

MVP: Joe Burrow

LSU may take a few drives to figure out Georgia's defense, but the Tigers will eventually. Burrow can also use the SEC Championship Game stage to fortify his position as Heisman favorite.

Fromm may benefit from his title-game experience to keep Georgia close early, but his lack of explosive receivers could be his downfall. And with Grant Delpit, Kristian Fulton and Co. containing the Bulldogs' passing attack, LSU should have a few opportunities to break the game open and make a strong case for the top seed.

                   

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.