On Saturday, September 28th, 2013 Athens, Georgia will hold the attention of millions of college football games. The Bayou Bengals from LSU will come to town to take on the Georgia Bulldogs between the hedges. This is a huge game for both teams as it matches up the #6 LSU Tigers vs the #9 Georgia Bulldogs. The winner of this game will be sitting pretty when it comes to a BCS spot come college football bowl season. One game, a season does not make, but this one game could break Georgia’s season. The Bulldogs lost to the Clemson Tigers to open the season and another loss might ruin their hopes of going to a BCS Bowl Game without an SEC conference championship. Here are a few things to watch for in this game.
The LSU Defensive Line
It is amazing to see the rotation of the LSU defensive line year in and year out. In 2013, LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis has a two deep that will challenge any offensive front in the country. This has been true for many years with LSU. I don’t know what they feed the kids down there in Louisiana but it is not what I ate as a child. Last year LSU had a defensive end that weighed 250 pounds and could run a 4.4 second 40 yard dash. Even though he graduated, LSU reloaded and still has some amazing talent along the defensive front. One thing that is unique with this LSU team is the defensive backfield is a little more experienced than the defensive front. This means that Georgia QB Aaron Murray might not be as big of a factor as the Georgia running backs. Listen for the name Todd Gurley during the CBS broadcast on Saturday afternoon.
If the LSU defensive line can get interior pressure during the game in Athens it will be interesting to see how Georgia reacts. Running the ball is necessary to win big games in the SEC but some teams have accepted they need to throw the ball to set up the run. I honestly don’t know if that will be possible against LSU. If there were ever a year in which teams could run the ball on first or second down this might be the year. If you want to throw on LSU good luck. LSU is currently giving up 136 rush yards a game which is a huge number for any LSU team. As stated earlier, the front seven is younger than usual so this team is sure to get better. How quickly they will improve might be determined this week at Georgia.
The Georgia Running Backs
With the LSU defensive line being a little bit young this might be the year that Georgia has a running back run for over 150 yards versus the Tigers. In the past decade not many teams have been able to run the ball down the throat of the LSU Tigers. In fact, the opposite was often true. The national championship LSU teams were known for getting the ball and methodically running a 15 to 20 play drive that just deflated the other team. If Georgia can do that on Saturday it will be interesting to see how the young LSU defensive line reacts. By putting more pressure on these young players the Georgia running backs could end up winning the game when all is said and done.
Anyone that is on scholarship to be a running back at Georgia has talent. Some end up doing better than others by their senior year but they are all very talented. Something very interesting in the SEC is running backs that have a few big games at a time. It is shocking to see how many running backs have a two or three game stretch in which they are amazing. As the season progresses a few things slow them down. Defensive coordinators get game tapes on their tendencies and the physical wear and tear on their bodies makes it difficult to keep up the pace. This is why the running backs that have an amazing full season in the SEC are often up for the Heisman Trophy.
The UGA Crowd
Home field advantage in the SEC is huge. It is hard to place into words how important it is to get the crowd involved in these types of Saturday games. One of the biggest advantages of the home team is getting off the ball. When LSU is on offense the crowd is going to be extremely loud. This makes it hard for the offensive lineman to hear the quarterback. Some teams will use a silent snap in which the quarterback simply lifts up his foot. Unfortunately, the defensive players can see this and they get a quick jump off the ball. There is no argument to be made that most of the big sack games for defensive players happen when they are at home. Not having to worry about anything but the quarterbacks foot is a huge advantage for any player coming off the ball. Watch for this on Saturday.
The home field advantage is usually worth about a field goal in a college football game. In the SEC it might be worth a little bit more than that. The crowd in Athens will be ready to go by 3:30 pm. The fact that this is the SEC game of the week on CBS means a large percentage of diehards will be out several hours before the game. Tailgating and the overall atmosphere is very special in the south. It will come as no surprise that some fans will start the tailgating process on Friday night. Getting geared up for a game for several hours means Sanford Stadium will be rocking at 3:30 pm est. If you have never been to an SEC football game on a Saturday afternoon it is definitely worth the experience. Fans know their football and they are willing to get very loud.
Over the past several years the quarterback of Georgia, Aaron Murray, has built up a reputation for losing the big game. Prior to beating South Carolina earlier this season Murray was thought of as the worst big game quarterback in the SEC. After that win the critics have pulled back a little bit, but they will be out again if LSU wins the game at Georgia. Against top 15 teams Aaron Murray is simply a different player. All the blame cannot be placed on him as football is a team sport. That said, after more than five or six losses some of the blame needs to go on the quarterback that has been there through all of those losses.
I have never been a huge fan of Aaron Murray. I have nothing against him as he has been a good kid while in college but he hasn’t been able to consistently win the big game. I am not sure if it is coaching or just the inability to deal with the pressure. During the LSU Tigers game on Saturday afternoon Murray will have many things in his favor. He will be at home and the LSU defensive front is not nearly as good as it was in past years. That said, the LSU secondary is unreal. This is one of the tallest and most physical secondaries I have seen in quite some time. I do not expect to see Aaron Murray throw for 300 yards versus LSU. In fact, he may not even need to throw for 200 yards. He needs to manage the game and not make the big mistake. This is sometimes difficult for a quarterback that has been known to make mistakes in the past.
I feel as if Aaron Murray can truly silence the critics if he can beat the LSU Tigers this weekend. He has already beaten South Carolina. A win versus LSU will put Georgia ahead of the pack in the SEC East to go to the SEC Championship game in Atlanta. The schedule is not easy for Georgia so a win against the Bayou Bengals will go a very long way towards helping their argument for a BCS spot during the bowl season. All of this will be a moot point if Georgia can win out and win the SEC Championship game. If Georgia wins out and wins the SEC Championship game there is a very good chance they will be in the national championship game.
An SEC team that goes undefeated is guaranteed a spot in the BCS national championship game. A one loss SEC team has a great shot at the BCS national championship if the cards fall in the right way. I firmly believe a one loss SEC team is probably in a much better position to compete for a national title than an undefeated team in some of the other conferences. That will be the topic for tomorrow so check it out.