Given the magnitude of this weekend’s contest in the Georgia Dome, this week’s edition of Too Much Information is being offered in three parts. The first installment covered the striking similarities between the SEC slates of Saturday’s combatants. We now look at the historical parallels, both between the two programs and between this season and previous ones.
Though they have met on the gridiron just 28 times, the Georgia Bulldogs and the LSU Tigers have history with one another. That history includes the SEC Championship Game played on December 3, 2005, when I wrote:
Earlier tonight, the Bulldogs played their best game of the season. . . .
The Georgia coaching staff called a brilliant game. The contest was hallmarked by gutsy calls, aggressive play, methodical execution, killer instinct, and physical football. If you're a Georgia fan and you didn't absolutely love every aspect of this game, you need to quit watching football, move to China, and spend the rest of your life watching people play ping pong. Yes, I know they call it "table tennis" in China. It's ping pong.
D.J. Shockley hit Sean Bailey on a perfect 45-yard touchdown strike. DeMario Minter set up another T.D. with an interception. Bryan McClendon blocked a punt to set up the Bulldogs' next score. Brandon Coutu made a 51-yard field goal look easy. The Georgia D knocked L.S.U.'s starting Q.B. out of the game with a separated shoulder and the second-string signal caller's second pass was intercepted by Tim Jennings and returned for a touchdown. The Tigers were held to 74 net rushing yards and the Bulldogs spent all evening in the Bayou Bengals' backfield. . . .
The glory days are now.
One of the reasons Georgia fans and LSU fans typically have such favorable feelings for one another’s football programs is that the two teams have risen and fallen together over the course of the last decade. Between 2001 and 2005, the Bayou Bengals attended three SEC Championship Games in a five-year period, winning two of them. Between 2002 and 2005, the Bulldogs attended three SEC Championship Games in a four-year period, winning two of them. Georgia and Louisiana State met in Atlanta twice during those years, with each team beating the other (convincingly) once. But for a one-point LSU loss to the Arkansas Razorbacks in Little Rock in 2002 and the inability of any team to kick a field goal against the Tennessee Volunteers in 2007, the Bulldogs and the Tigers would have met in the Georgia Dome four times in a six-year span.
Following their last meeting in that venue six years ago, it appeared that these two teams were destined to face off often with the league title on the line. As of the close of the 2005 campaign, Nick Saban was no longer in Baton Rouge and Tim Tebow was not yet in Gainesville, and Georgia and LSU were the dominant forces in the league. After a half-decade of ‘90s retro featuring the reascendance of the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Florida Gators, it’s good to see the Bayou Bengals and the Bulldogs are serious about getting the band back together.
Accordingly, I am approaching this Saturday’s contest with a sense of nostalgia, recalling in the process such details as these:
- In 2001 and in 2005, the favored team in the SEC Championship Game was upset. Louisiana State was involved each time, losing to Georgia on the second such occasion.
- Mark Richt is 3-3 against the Tigers.
- In 2007, when LSU made its most recent previous SEC Championship Game appearance and Georgia tied for the Eastern Division championship but lost the head-to-head tiebreaker to determine the team that would represent the East in Atlanta, the Bulldogs were the hottest team in the country at the end of the year, and the Bayou Bengals claimed the national title with two losses. It may be four years overdue, but this is the matchup we wanted then, and, once again, we have a red-hot Red and Black squad that overcame a pair of early losses to go on a tear through several major rivals in succession, and we have a Tiger team entering the Dome with a shot at the national championship.
- The similarities to 2005, while obvious, are important enough to bear repeating. That season, the ‘Dawgs were ranked in the teens of the preseason polls, opened against Boise State in the Peach State on September 3, played a tight ballgame against the South Carolina Gamecocks on September 10, scored in the low 20s against the Mississippi St. Bulldogs in a game in which the Red and Black won while limiting the opposition to ten points, defeated the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville in a low-scoring affair on October 8, scored in the low 30s in a win over the Vanderbilt Commodores in Nashville on October 15, squared off with the Florida Gators in Jacksonville on October 29 for a four-point decision in which the losing team’s starting quarterback was suffering from injuries sustained earlier in the autumn, won the Eastern Division championship by beating the Kentucky Wildcats between the hedges on November 19, beat the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in Atlanta on November 26 to cap off a two-loss regular season, and squared off with Louisiana State in the SEC Championship Game on December 3. Maybe that’s all a great big coincidence, but, for the record, Georgia won that game, 34-14.
- While we’re noting similarities with previous seasons, though, I would be remiss not to compare 2010 to 1974. Both campaigns featured double-digit losses to Mississippi State in the Magnolia State, early road losses to Palmetto State rivals, losses to the Auburn Tigers in the so-called Loveliest Village, six-win regular seasons, and embarrassing setbacks to mid-major teams in minor bowl games. Both seasons were followed by years in which Georgia opened the autumn at 0-1 yet concluded the campaign by having suffered only a pair of defeats in the regular season, thanks in large part to significantly improved defensive play. Given the run that followed the fall of 1975---Georgia won SEC championships in 1976, 1980, 1981, and 1982, and came within one game of claiming the conference crown in 1978, 1979, and 1983---I’m hoping that parallel holds true, as well.
None of that may mean anything at all, of course, but it sure makes me feel better about our chances.