Let me own up to this right now: I have no idea what’s going to happen tomorrow. That’s all right, though, because neither does Doug Gillett, neither does Senator Blutarsky, neither do Louisiana State fans, and neither do you. Paul Westerdawg seems to have something at least resembling a clue, but, really, the only guy who truly appears to have a handle on the whole thing is, of course, Matt Hinton.
To that I am able to add only incrementally, if at all, but I will do my best to load you up not with a sensible portion of data, nor with a reasonably-sized slice of insight, but, rather, with Too Much Information. Here we go:
Odds and Ends
This is a strange series. The Georgia Bulldogs and the LSU Tigers have met just 27 times, with four of those 27 meetings coming in only two seasons (twice in 1943 and twice in 2003), yet there is significance to this budding rivalry. In effect, a showdown between these two teams was a central event in Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men, and, as recently as three years ago, before the resurgence of the Alabama Crimson Tide under Nick Saban and of the Florida Gators under Urban Meyer, it appeared that Georgia and Louisiana State would be the dominant powers in the league. That has not come to pass as expected, but neither has it missed happening by much.
The Bulldogs have won three straight from the Bayou Bengals and have taken six of the last eight series meetings. The Red and Black are 12-7-1 against LSU in the last 20 tilts between these two teams.
The most maddening fact about each of these clubs is that both squads offset positive performances on one side of the ball with weak production on the other side. Consider the ways in which a strong Georgia offense is being undermined by a weak Georgia defense:
|Points Per Game||30.8||29.8|
|1st Downs on Pass Plays||40||41|
|Yards Per Rush||3.6||3.5|
|Rush Yards Per Game||112.2||112.8|
|Passing Yards Per Game||245.0||243.0|
|Total Offensive Yards||1,429||1,423|
|Yards Per Game||357.2||355.8|
Now consider the ways in which a strong LSU defense is being undermined by a weak LSU offense:
|1st Downs on Running Plays||33||37|
|1st Downs on Pass Plays||34||34|
|Rushing Yards Gained||636||636|
|Yards Per Rush||3.8||3.5|
|Yards Per Catch||11.2||11.4|
|3rd Down Conversion Rate||44%||42%|
When not occupied with offsetting themselves, both teams are busy offsetting one another. Georgia has scored 14 touchdowns; Louisiana State has scored 14 touchdowns. Georgia has scored four rushing touchdowns; LSU has scored three rushing touchdowns. Georgia’s defense allows 3.5 yards per rush; LSU’s defense allows 3.5 yards per rush. Georgia has registered five sacks for 35 yards; LSU has registered five sacks for 34 yards. Georgia has allowed 16 points in the second quarter; LSU has allowed 16 points in the second quarter. Georgia has scored 25 points in the third quarter; LSU has scored 24 points in the third quarter.
Ten years ago today, a good (and very nearly former) friend of mine, John Hope, got married. I know that because he asked me to be in his wedding (which did not take place near Athens) before telling me that it coincided with the Georgia-LSU game in Sanford Stadium on October 2, 1999, a date which marked the sixth anniversary of the last time I had missed a Bulldog home game. The ‘Dawgs wore white pants and won. My feelings on weddings that conflict with Georgia football games are well-documented.
I have often wondered whether the 2003 SEC Championship Game was for Mark Richt what the 1966 World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party was for Steve Spurrier. The Bulldogs’ first 13 losses of the Mark Richt era were by margins of five, 14, seven, four, seven, seven, three, 21, five, 18, four, one, and three points, respectively. The beatdown in the Georgia Dome from a Louisiana State squad bound for a national championship stands out, and, since that whipping was administered, the Classic City Canines have handed the Bayou Bengals setbacks by margins of 45-16 in Athens, 34-14 in Atlanta, and 52-38 in Baton Rouge.
Believe it or not, the Bulldogs have gained more first downs on penalties (9) than they have surrendered first downs on penalties (8). We focus on the fact that Georgia is the SEC’s second-most penalized team while forgetting that the Red and Black pick up by far the most yards on opponents’ penalties (94.5 yards per game).
The Classic City Canines have outscored the opposition by four points in the first quarter (45-41) and by zero points in the fourth quarter (19-19). Georgia holds an 18-point lead in the second stanza (34-16) but is at an 18-point deficit in the first 15 minutes following intermission (43-25). The Bayou Bengals are at their best defensively in the third period.
How important is A.J. Green to the Georgia offense? The sensational sophomore averages 107.0 receiving yards per game. Orson Charles, Tavarres King, and Michael Moore combined average 96.2 receiving yards per game. As goes A.J., so go the ‘Dawgs.
The Red and Black have run four fewer plays than the Fighting Tigers, but Georgia averages almost a full yard per play more than Louisiana State.
No team in the SEC has allowed fewer rushing touchdowns than the Bulldogs (1). No team in the SEC has allowed more touchdown passes than Georgia (10). No team in the SEC has allowed more first downs on running plays than LSU (37)
The Red and Black are 3-1 over Louisiana State in seasons in which the Athenians defeat the Arkansas Razorbacks.
The ‘Dawgs are the league’s third-worst team in kickoff coverage. The Tigers are the league’s worst team in kickoff returns. The ‘Dawgs field the conference’s best red zone offense. The Tigers field the conference’s second-best red zone defense.
Louisiana State gives up only 15.2 points per game, a little over half of the 29.8 allowed by Georgia. However, 49 of the 61 points the Bayou Bengals have surrendered have been scored in games played away from Baton Rouge, both of which were nailbiters against teams that do not appear to be as good as the Bulldogs.
The Feel Good Stat of the Week
Against the SEC West, Mark Richt is 22-6 overall, 20-5 in the regular season, and 9-3 at home. The Bulldogs’ last home game against a Western Division opponent came in last year’s debacle against ‘Bama. Georgia has not lost two straight home games against SEC West foes in the Mark Richt era.
The Bottom Line
Danged if I know. Given LSU’s penchant for takeaways (first in the SEC in turnover margin), this could be the week that Georgia’s tendency towards giveaways (last in the SEC in turnover margin) catches up with the Red and Black. On the other hand, given LSU’s poor showing while in possession of the pigskin (last in the SEC in total offense), it could come down to a battle of field position and the player of the game could be Drew Butler (leading punter in the league).
We just have no idea . . . but, since even confirmed Georgia-hater Mark May picked us at halftime of tonight’s Big East game, surely we have a chance.
My Prediction: Georgia 24, LSU 23.