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A Game for the Season

October 1, 2009

It is hard to say that a whole season can come down to one game.

However, when the Bulldogs and Tigers meet at Sanford Stadium this weekend, it will be just that – a game for the season. Georgia comes in on a three game winning streak, LSU comes in undefeated with three unimpressive wins against Vandy, Miss. State and Washington. The next two games for LSU prove vital. If LSU goes home with a win on Saturday they could afford to lose one game to Florida the next week and still have a shot at appearing in Atlanta for the SEC Championship game in December. For Georgia, a loss couldwould be a season killer. It would kill any chance of Georgia getting back to the top in the rankings and even if they did win out, it would be hard for a two loss – assuming we beat Florida and win the SEC Championship – team to get into the national championship game. Thus, there is tons hinging on the game Saturday afternoon.

Despite the fact that LSU comes Between the Hedges ranked 14 spaces ahead of UGA in the AP poll, the two teams are very similar. Both teams in recent weeks have relied on their defense to bail them out of particularly tough situations. Although LSU ranks 5th in the nation in turnover margin to UGA’s 115th ranking, their defense – for the season – has been on the field 57 more plays than their offense. That includes 18 straight plays against Mississippi State this past weekend. In every game this season, Georgia’s defense has been put on the field in tough situations due to mishaps by the offense and the special teams. Opponents have run 37 more offensive plays than UGA has. This means that a key for Georgia this week will be to continue to keep LSU’s defense on the field and not shoot themselves in the foot with turnovers and false starts in key third down situations.

Despite what many people say, every game is won and lost in the battle of the trenches. This week looks to have some big matchups on both sides of the ball. LSU plays traditional, “deep south” smash mouth football. Like many LSU teams, expect them to be athletic, as they have proved to be in the secondary. They average giving up about 200 yards a game through the air and have 7 interceptions to boot. This means that the Red Headed Stranger – Joe Cox, for those that are wondering – will have to be particularly careful with his passes this Saturday and that UGA’s offensive line will have to keep doing a good job of protecting him. The line has given up 5 sacks this year – neither good nor bad. To put that into perspective the Georgia defense, that everyone talks about lacking pressure, has only had 5 sacks all season. The offensive line for Georgia, minus Richard Samuel’s 80 yard TD scamper, has had trouble blocking for the run. Part of the problem is that many teams, like Arizona State, stack the box with 8 people and force Cox to throw, but so far this has paid off for the Dawgs. I, and the rest of the Bulldawg nation for that matter, should be okay with the fact that Georgia only averages 112.3 yards per game on the ground because the passing game, with threats like A.J. Green and Michael Moore, has carried us. LSU’s defense has struggled with the run so this might be a weekend where the Dawgs, with what Bobo and Richt call a  split backfield, get the running game going. Mainly, for the Dawgs’ offense, the key will be PROTECTING THE FOOTBALL. I hope that Richt has had the players running those bleachers to pay for the turnovers last week and that they have learned their lesson. As a team, LSU ranks 5th in the nation in turnover margin. If UGA has a game like their last 4, with respect to turnovers, it could be a very long afternoon in Sanford Stadium.

The Georgia defense has been very hard to figure out over the past 4 weeks. They have repeatedly been put into tough situations due to offensive turnovers. However, as teams have repeatedly driven into the red zone, the defense has bowed its neck and kept the offense out of the end zone. However, the lack of defense between the twenties continually annoys many of the 92,746 in Sanford Stadium. Receivers seem to have 20 yard cushions. Quarterbacks have forever in the pocket. I am no dummy, I know that you cannot rush ever play. However, you can rush some of the time. Willy Martinez is a good defensive coordinator. Look at what happened in New Orleans a few years ago against Hawaii. Actually, look at the majority of that season – the defense looked like the Junk Yard Dawgs we need right now. Martinez needs to find that balance – bring more stunts while getting creative with the pass rush and play calling. He needs to play the players that are hungry to make a play. Justin Houston, due to a suspension, has only played two games this season. Yet he has already been recognized as the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week and leads the DL in tackles with 11. Maybe every player needs a two game suspension to make him want it more – you never know,  it might work. The other players on the defensive line should take note of Houston’s effort and try to replicate it to stop the struggling LSU offense. The LSU offense ranks 105th nationally. They have had a hard time moving the ball in short yardage situations. In last weeks game against Miss State, they had 30 rushing yards in 31 attempts. With three returning starters on the offensive line and a quarterback with 6 games of experience under his belt, Les Miles is looking to get his offense rolling.

My prediction for the game: Look for Georgia to put a complete game effort together. The defense played well last week limiting Arizona state 204 yards of total offense. The offense has to limit eliminate the turnovers that have plagued them in past weeks. LSU’s offense ranks last in the SEC, UGA needs to capitalize on their offensive struggles and string together long drives of passing and running to hit LSU where they are weak – on the corners. Trying to play straight up against LSU could get Georgia beat. A complete team effort where offense, defense, and special teams all work together with few mistakes  will result in the Dawgs leaving Sanford Stadium with a win and a 4 and 1 record and sitting in a good spot for the rest of the season.

Until next time, “You stay classy Classic City.”

—-edit by Herschel Blogger—-

I decided to add onto this post a few predictions around the SEC and nation as a whole, but let’s start with the game on everybody’s mind, tongue, and fingertips:

As I sit on North Campus at the legendary Herty Field, it’s hard to not be anxious, excited, and emotional. Clusters of LSU fans are making their way around North Campus, perhaps planning their tailgate for tomorrow or simply admiring the sheer beauty of it all. Tour groups of high schoolers are meandering around and they are consistently ringing the Chapel Bell as they walk past. I can’t help but hope to God that I’ll be hearing the same sound tomorrow evening and all through the night. This is by far one of the biggest home games that I’ve been a part of while a student on campus, and with good reason. We have everything to gain AND everything to lose. By no means am I discrediting the other games in our lineup for the rest of the fall, but this one has the potential to launch us into the top 10. With a win here and (pray-to-God) one at Florida, we not only are instantly back into the national spotlight, but we’d be thrusted into the talk of the national title. The national media and pollsters are finally giving the SEC the respect that it’s been asking for for so many years, (however unfounded it may be this season,) and a 1-loss SEC team should have everything at their disposal to make a case for the race.
But I digress. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We have a battle tomorrow, but Fratt’s already covered everything that needed to be covered. The Dawgs win a close one, but not as close as predicted. We find ourselves on the field and find that we are truly a team to be reckoned with. Dawgs on top, 27-17.

Alabama at Kentucky
The Crimson Tide leaves Bluegrass Country with a solid win. Greg McElroy posts impressive numbers as Bama continues to impress in the West. Bama, 34-14

Ole Miss at Vanderbilt
Ole Miss fans are delusional. My roommate is an avid Ole Miss fan (once you dig down past the very thick layer of Bulldawg pride,) and he and his parents were livid/depressed/suicidal after last week. Ole Miss proves in this game that it IS a better team than it’s #21 spot, but not by much. Rebs up, 21-10

GA Tech at Mississippi State
Wouldn’t you love to see the Bees squashed against the runts of the SEC? Without a doubt, I’ll be a Bulldog fan twice come tomorrow. Mississippi State loses, of course, but not without a fight. The North Atlanta Trade School wins by 10, 24-14

Auburn at Tennessee
I believe it was the writers at Battle Hymn Notes that described this matchup as the Overpaid Rookie Coaches Bowl. As much as I would like to jump on the War Tiger Plainsmen bandwagon, I still feel that they haven’t quite bounced back from their abysmal season last year. By no means is the Lane Train going to plow it’s way through the Tigers, but I think that a win here is definitely in the Master Plan. It’s hard fought though. It’s a classic SEC matchup that gets decided in the trenches. Who wants it more? I’ll give it to the Kiffinites, 24-17

So. Cal. at Cal.
Wanna know something I don’t care about? West Coast football. but alas, I’m a blogger now. I’ll write something. USC isn’t going to drop another one, but don’t we wish they would? Trojans pull it out 31-21 and probably move to #4 over an undefeated Boise State. Freaking overrated.

Oklahoma at Miami
Miami’s back, but not all the way. Sooners, 34-21

Tim Tebow vs. Brain Damage/Boredom/The World
How does Timmy deal with a week off? What does he decide to cook for his mother’s bridge game Sunday afternoon? Stay tuned to ESPN for extensive coverage of the most important storyline this weekend!

So there you have it. Now I’ve got an accounting quiz, and then it’s time to party with all of the LSU kids in town.

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