Here is what I’m NOT worried about for Saturday’s SEC Championship Game:
1) There’s a recipe for beating LSU. And we have the ingredients. Sack Joe Burrow. Create a couple of turnovers. Stop LSU on 4th down. They will pile up the yardage, yet you can keep them out of the endzone and keep the score down. Most defenses this year haven’t had that crucial stop, weren’t able to contain Burrow, and fell victim to the Tigers balanced run and pass offense.
Let’s go back to the LSU-Auburn game in late October. Here are the possessions:
Auburn: 4 plays 14 yards (punt) LSU: 3 plays 7 yards (punt)
Auburn: 14 playes 42 yards (FG) LSU: 11 plays 41 yards (punt)
Auburn: 4 plays 20 yards (punt) LSU: 10 plays, 89 yards (TD)
Auburn: 3 plays -4 yards (punt) LSU: 9 plays 43 yards (downs)
Auburn: 3 plays 5 yards (punt) LSU: fumbled punt return
Auburn: 7 plays 22 yards (TD) LSU: 10 plays 73 yards (FG)
Auburn: 3 plays 41 yards (INT) LSU: takes a knee to end the half
Auburn sacked LSU on the first offensive play, and twice more. They recovered a fumble. But I noticed they kept the ball in front of them, allowed hardly any passes downfield, and only gave up a handful of plays over 10 yards. Both teams had some 15 yard penalties, but look at Auburn’s possessions… seem familiar? 3 punts in a row, 5 possessions of 4 plays or less, yeah, that is straight up 2019 Georgia Bulldogs. Bo Nix had a 15-35 passing day for 157 yards, and Auburn only had 130 yards rushing for the game. The 2nd half was more of the same. LSU wasn’t ready for Auburn’s pressure, or it’s secondary protecting against the boundary play. I’m telling you, we can do this.
2) Being the underdog. I’m not about to go look up historical betting lines, so this is from a more mental and emotional perspective. It’s a big game, but the “chopping” and “main thing” mottos from the Georgia Bulldogs apply here. They don’t need a “why not us?” approach, because they know if they do the right things the right way, Georgia will certainly be successful to some extent. There are seniors, and plenty of players with history to mentor the youngsters to keep focus and understand that one play or one series does not determine the victor. Unless it’s in overtime. Too soon?
3) Experience. We’ve been here 3 times straight. A great many of the current Bulldogs have played in this same environment, with the same regular season record, and with the same goals in front of them. There should be little change in the UGA approach to this particular game and little shrinking in the spotlight. The current LSU squad has also seen plenty of big games, just not one in this stadium for these particular stakes. But we play so many youngsters, it’s not as big as advantage as one would think. But it still has to be a check mark on the Georgia side of the ledger, and though popular opinion has LSU still making the playoffs with a loss, I think the pressure is on LSU to win with so many believing it’s a foregone conclusion.
Now forgive me, as I was weaned at the nipple of Larry Munson’s scratch on AM radio, so here’s what I am worried about:
1) Jake Fromm is not a confident quarterback. He’s better when there’s pressure, not at the beginning of a 0-0 contest. Jake is holding onto the ball, Burrows is letting it fly. Fromm is bouncing around on a straight dropback, sometimes 7 or 9 steps deep, Burrows is taking a couple of steps back, either spinning it quickly or moving out of a collapsing pocket to hit a big gain on the run. Why aren’t we rolling Jake Fromm out? It is noteworthy that if our wide receivers aren’t able to get separation on scripted routes and our quarterback can’t see them, then maybe the impromptu schoolyard play is more of an option. Cut the routes short (other than the deeps that at least open up underneath), and let our speed guys find space and run for yards after the catch.
In the Tech game thread and later in 15 Thoughts, DavetheDawg has mentioned that the Warner Robins native might have a physical limitation. Fromm has never rolled out much, and if something is ailing, this isn’t a likely solution. The underthrown balls, throwing behind the receivers, or else significantly airmailed over the receiver – that is what we’ve seen more of this season than any of the previous 2. And if your most successful throw is a back shoulder, which might be a late/underthrown ball anyway, then you might have something wrong with your arm strength.
2) Survive the second quarter. LSU sometimes needs a little while to get it going. You, me, and the world think LSU is a highly potent offense scoring tons of points. And we are right. But in 7 of their 12 games, the Bayou Bengals have been held to a single score, or less, in the first 15 minutes. YAYYYY!! Cause for optimism!!!
But hold onto your beignets, ‘cause they sure come out firing in the 2nd quarter. The Cajun Canines have at least 3 scores in every second frame this season, and they are averaging a cat’s whisker under 17 points. All by hisself (that’s a real word where I come from), Joe Burreaux has thrown for 1,666 yards and 17 scores in the 2nd quarter, with a 215 passer rating. That’s 500 more yards and 5 more TDs than any other period.
By contrast, the Georgia defense has given up about 3.25 points on average in that same quarter, and 39 points total! I guess that’s pretty good. But it is the worst of the first 3 quarters (and our defensive starters have sat a lot in the 4th, so I won’t count that). As an aside the Georgia defense has held an opponent scoreless in 32 of the 48 quarters of football played. And only 3 times has a Bulldog opponent scored in the opening quarter, none in the last 6. I don’t know where I’m going with this, I just got drunk on the scoring stats.
3) Yep, the LSU passing game. More specifically, the LSU receiving game. LSU frequently sends out 5 receivers, many times with the back motioning out wide. They criss and cross and curl and slant and… go deep. They throw over the middle, to the boundary, screens, you name it. But mostly getting hitting in stride, they use the slant a lot, and we’re vulnerable to the slant.
The Tigers have 9 players with double digit receptions on the year (Georgia also has 9). Of those, only 2 are running backs (Georgia has 3). And of those, 7 have double digit yards per reception on average (Georgia has 6). Sounds pretty equal to me.
Georgia has 3 receivers with more than 26 total receptions and 2 tied for the team high at 33. LSU has 4 receivers with more than the Georgia team high, 2 with over 1,000 yards, and they have Ja’Marr Chase. The odds-on Biletnikoff Award favorite is averaging 132 yards a game and has received 17 touchdowns. Yeah, it looked close for a while.
Call me crazy, just don’t call me late for dinner. Sound off in the comments below what worries you about the SEC Championship Game between the Bulldogs of Georgia and the Tigers of Red Stick.
And as always…