The 2-1 Georgia Bulldogs face what looks more and more like their toughest game in the regular season on Saturday, as the team hosts the #6 LSU Tigers at Sanford Stadium with a 3:30 p.m. kickoff on CBS.
The Bulldogs are fresh off a wakeup call against North Texas (45-21 victory), while the Tigers are coming off of a dominating 35-21 victory over SEC West rival Auburn. Although the teams do not have any common opponents through five weeks of football, it appears from all aspects that the matchup is fairly even, which puts even more pressure on a game that could very well determine who wins the Southeastern Conference’s East and West division this season.
While the Tigers have not have much competition—besides the season opening victory over TCU—so far this year, Georgia’s offense can take away the fact that this year’s LSU defense under coordinator John Chavis is just as strong as it has ever been, giving up an average of 136 yards on the ground and 174 yards through the air.
Because LSU’s secondary has been so stout against opposing quarterbacks this year, the Bulldogs really need to utilize sophomore running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall as well as freshman fullback Quayvon Hicks in attacking the Tigers’ defensive front and making the most of their talent to frustrate the opposing defense.
As often as it is said, the rushing game truly opens up the passing game for senior quarterback Aaron Murray, as consistent success in running the ball forces the linebackers and safeties to check themselves and prepare for a blast from the running back, which can cause hesitation and as a result a huge play through the air. Although we have seen Gurley play very well through this game (especially in the Clemson and South Carolina games), instincts make me think the Dawgs need to see something from Marshall, who most considered to be the superior of the two backs when they first arrived in Athens. If the Bulldogs are able to run for at least 105 yards on Saturday, expect them to have a shot at getting the “W”.
Just as the running game will be important for the Bulldogs’ offense, it will be equally important for the Dawgs’ defense to shut down LSU running back Jeremy Hill. Hill, who had a wild offseason and seemed to be on the outs in Baton Rouge, has been on a tear for the Tigers as of late, as the sophomore carried the load for the offense last week with 25 carries, 183 yards, and 3 touchdowns in the big victory over Auburn.
Preventing Hill from making big plays will definitely not be an easy task, which leads to Georgia also needing to place LSU in a hole as early as possible through turnovers. Despite playing the likes of Kent State and UAB so far this season, LSU has not exactly dominated in the turnover margin category, as the team sits a measly 62nd in the nation with just one more turnover forced than committed.
Making the most out of these turnovers will be in pressuring senior Zach Mettenberger, the former Georgia player whose mother still works in the school’s administrative office. While this may be a bit like the prodigal son returning home, there’s no need to expect any sort of leniency for the man who once battled Murray for the right to be the Bulldogs’ signal-caller. Mettenberger has been near-perfect so far this season for the Tigers, throwing for 1,026 yards with 10 touchdowns and only one interception through just four games. Georgia’s defense so far this season has seemingly accepted the “bend but don’t break” mantra, and although hitting Mettenberger hard and often will be key, it looks like this will be another case where whoever has the ball last in the fourth quarter could very well win the game.
Game Prediction: This turns into a matchup that causes defensive coordinators do have nervous breakdowns, as both offenses shred the opposing defense time and time again. The Bulldogs have plenty of firepower on offense and make the most of it in this one, but the Tigers’ rushing attack proves to be a real thorn in the Bulldogs’ sides. LSU running back Jeremy Hill has another big game for the Tigers, rushing for 118 yards and 2 touchdowns, including a 5 yard scamper with under three minutes left in the fourth to give LSU a lead that they do not relinquish. Final Score LSU Tigers 38, Georgia Bulldogs 31
Disagree with my prediction? Leave a comment with your predicted final score and what you think will be the key to this game
BONUS: In case you Bulldogs fans were not already excited enough about this matchup, take a look at the hype video that Georgia has put together: