No. 2 Georgia gets toughest test yet at No. 13 LSU
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU running back Nick Brossette said he’s been looking forward to playing Georgia “for a long time now,” and would search the internet for a telecast of the last time the Bulldogs played in Tiger Stadium.
The video from 2008 shows a Georgia squad that featured Matthew Stafford, A.J. Green and Knowshon Moreno — and which hardly looked intimidated by the environment in Death Valley while posting 52 points in a two-touchdown victory.
A decade later, the Bulldogs (6-0, 4-0 SEC) return with a No. 2 ranking, an unblemished record and a roster full of productive players who, on one hand, expect their toughest challenge of the season so far, and on the other, sound very confident they’ll handle it — even though none of the teams they’ve played so far are currently ranked.
“We’ve been tested,” Georgia tight end Isaac Nauta said. “We believe that some of the best competition we’re going to play is in practice.”
Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm is threatening to eclipse former Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch’s 1998 SEC single season completion percentage record of 72.3. The Bulldogs have a host of productive running backs who’ve combined to average 245 yards rushing per game. And Georgia’s defense is among the stingiest in the nation, allowing 13 points per game.
“We just have to be Georgia football,” receiver Terry Goodwin said. “We haven’t played our best yet.”
Maybe not, but the Bulldogs have bulldozed their competition so far. Their slimmest victory margin has been by two touchdowns at Missouri .
Odds makers have listed Georgia as slightly more than a touchdown favorite at No. 13 LSU (5-1, 2-1), which was ranked fifth before tumbling down the AP Top 25 after its first loss of the season at Florida last weekend.
“Our team is fired up for an opportunity to play in an awesome place to play,” said Georgia coach Kirby Smart, who coached the secondary at LSU under Nick Saban in 2004.
Smart raved about LSU’s size and physical style on offense, adding, “As far as the questions that our defensive line and our defense had, they’ll be answered this week for sure when we go out there to play these guys.”
The Tigers have not lost two straight since coach Ed Orgeron took over for Les Miles four games into the 2016 season, going 6-0 immediately after setbacks under the burly and boisterous Cajun who’s widely seen as a strong motivator. And the coach sounded certain that focus and energy would be in ample supply among his players this week on the heels of a turnover- and penalty-plagued loss.
“We should have won that football game. They know it. I think the team is hungry,” Orgeron said. “Georgia’s got our attention, has had everybody’s attention all year.”
Some other story lines surrounding Georgia’s visit to LSU:
Georgia rotates running backs effectively and it shows in their yards per carry. Elijah Holyfield has averaged 7.4 yards per rush, DeAndre Swift 4.9, Brian Herrien 6.3 and James Cook 5.5. Georgia also rotates in Justin Fields at quarterback, providing the option to have an adept runner at that position. Fields has rushed for three TDs.
LSU has largely split carries between Brossette (96 yards per game) and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (55 ypg). Quarterback Joe Burrow is the Tigers’ third-leading rusher.
“They’ve got a lot of different runs, toss-perimeter runs. They do a good job of mixing up the run game,” Smart said of the Tigers. “That affects how you’re able to play the quarterback. So we’ll have to see what all they come with.”
LSU has used six offensive line combinations this season, largely because of injuries. Orgeron said starting guard Garrett Brumfield remains out, but expects Saturday to mark the first time all season he’s had the same offensive line two weeks in a row. Orgeron said coaches considered another shuffle after Burrow was pressured regularly by Florida, but opted for the benefits of continuity.
With Georgia’s running game so effective, Fromm doesn’t have to throw much and averages about 200 yards per game. But he has completed 83 of 114 passes (72.8 percent) and has 12 touchdown passes against two interceptions. Fromm also has hit on big plays, such as touchdown passes of 75 and 35 yards last week vs. Vanderbilt .
This matchup features two of the most highly regarded cornerbacks in the country. Georgia’s Deandre Baker has two interceptions, which he’s returned for a combined 82 yards. LSU’s Andraez “Greedy” Williams also has two interceptions and has frustrated opposing team’s top receivers all season. Smart said he sees similarities between Williams and Baker, saying Williams “kind of takes care of one side (of the field) and shuts down a wideout each game.”
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