Here we go: It’s the SEC Championship Game, with the Georgia Bulldogs trying to push their way into the College Football Playoff, much as they were trying to do last year. The SEC’s best team during the regular season stands in their way.
By Matt Zemek
Last year, Alabama rallied to lock Georgia out of the playoff. This year, LSU will try to keep Georgia out of the playoff and, in the process, get the No. 1 seed in the playoff. LSU is playing this game for a specific prize: the Peach Bowl and a short trip to Atlanta with Utah or Oklahoma as the opponent. That is a LOT better for LSU than a Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. Winning this game gives LSU its first SEC championship since 2011 and a better chance at winning the national title. Let’s see how the Tigers can get it done in Atlanta.
1 – Take away D’Andre Swift
LSU’s worst-case scenario in this game is obvious: Georgia runs the ball effectively and consistently, keeping the ball away from Joe Burrow (or is it Burreaux?) and limiting the Tigers’ possessions. Georgia’s offensive line establishing territorial dominance to shorten the game and keep the score down is exactly how Kirby Smart and offensive coordinator James Coley want to play the game. Georgia, playing in Atlanta, will always have a big crowd on hand for the SEC Championship Game if it can get there. Now that UGA has reached Atlanta in three straight seasons, we can see and appreciate the benefit of this. Georgia dominated Auburn in 2017 and very nearly upset Alabama last year. This is not an easy game for LSU, despite everything you have seen about Georgia’s offense. The Tigers have to stuff the run and keep Swift under wraps as a receiver out of the backfield. Everything about this game for LSU starts there. If Georgia’s offense can’t establish the right tempo, the Dawgs are in deep muck. Dave Aranda schooling Coley is where LSU can get on top of this game and create a low-stress evening in Atlanta.
2 – Defensive discipline
Georgia receiver George Pickens will miss the first half of this game due to a suspension caused by a fight against Georgia Tech last week. Georgia receiver Lawrence Cager is far from fully healthy. Swift himself is not 100 percent. Georgia comes in beaten up. LSU has a great chance to limit UGA’s defense and make this game supremely manageable. The main reminder: Don’t get lazy. Don’t get caught out of position. Stay home on misdirections or other change-ups James Coley has in store for the LSU defense. Georgia’s limitations on offense, especially in the first half without George Pickens, make it that much more important for LSU to be clearheaded and focused, and not get caught in bad habits. It is also important for LSU’s defense to max out in the first half since Pickens will return in the second half. This doesn’t mean LSU has to be perfect. The main point: If there was ever a time to avoid committing a dumb personal foul penalty on third and eight which keeps an opponent’s drive alive, or to avoid the busted coverage which gives an opponent seven points, the first half on Saturday is the example.
3 – Offensive line
Auburn’s defensive front made life difficult for Joe Burrow. Georgia’s defensive front COULD make life difficult for Joe Burrow. No one on LSU should worry about Joe Burrow or any LSU skill-position player. As long as the offensive line can do a solid job overall, and an especially good job on third downs, the Tigers’ offense should be fine. Most of the game keys reside on the defensive side of the ball, but if there’s one key on offense, it is the line’s ability to allow the offense to take flight one more time.