BATON ROUGE – Barring the upset of this century and last by Arkansas (2-8, 0-6 Southeastern Conference) over No. 1 LSU (10-0, 6-0 SEC) on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium and the immediate firing of everyone on LSU’s staff, including the analysts, the Tigers will play No. 4 Georgia (9-1, 6-1 SEC) in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday, Dec. 7, at 3 p.m. on CBS in Atlanta.
Without a 20-17, double-overtime loss by Georgia to South Carolina on Oct. 12, LSU could be playing its second “Game of the Century” in less than a month, not counting a No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the College Football Playoffs later on December 28 or in the national title game on Jan. 13.
Regardless of rankings, LSU-Georgia will be one of the best match-ups in SEC Championship Game history – one for the ages between Georgia, which is clinging to Old School football for dear life, and the Millennial Monster that is LSU with its 30-year-old pass game coordinator Joe Brady, who is the talk of the nation, and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who used to be hot, but lately is coaching at times this season as if he’s 22.
LSU and Georgia each have two games left, but let’s take an early look at these wonderfully diametrically opposed statistics:
-LSU is No. 2 in the nation and No. 1 in the SEC in total offense with 446 yards a game. … Georgia is No. 6 in the nation and No. 1 in the SEC in total defense with 267.2 yards allowed a game.
-LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is No. 2 in the nation and No. 1 in the SEC with 3,687 passing yards. … Georgia is No. 20 in the nation and No. 4 in the SEC in pass defense with 191.7 yards allowed a game.
-LSU is No. 2 in the nation and No. 1 in the SEC in scoring with 47.8 points a game. … Georgia is No. 2 in the nation and No. 1 in the SEC in fewest points allowed with 10.5.
-Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm is only No. 65 in the nation and No. 8 in the SEC in passing yards with 1,968 yards – not much more than half of Burrow – and he is at 196.8 a game. … But LSU’s pass defense is No. 78 in the nation and No. 11 in the SEC with 237 yards allowed a game.
-Georgia is only No. 47 in the nation and No. 5 in the SEC in total offense with 426.7 yards a game. … But LSU is No. 47 in the nation and No. 9 in the SEC in total defense with 367.8 yards allowed a game.
-Georgia is only No. 41 in the nation and No. 4 in the SEC in scoring with 32.4 points a game. … But LSU is No. 44 in the nation and No. 9 in the SEC in points allowed with 23.8.
-Georgia is No. 24 in the nation and No. 4 in the SEC in rushing with 208.4 yards a game. … LSU is No. 33 in the nation and No. 4 in the SEC against the run with 130.8 yards allowed a game.
-Georgia is No. 3 in the nation and No. 1 in the SEC in run defense with 75.5 yards allowed a game. … LSU is No. 33 in the nation and No. 4 in the SEC in rushing with 130.8 yards a game.
It should be fun. And Georgia coach Kirby Smart is proud of how his team plays on offense.
“I know you all don’t believe in it, and you all think it’s boring,” he said. “And you all hate it, and it’s not explosive. I get it. OK. But in this league, you’ve got to be able to have the threat of the run in order to sustain. It’s hard to run the ball in this league. You look across this league, and say, ‘Who’s running the ball really well?’ If you don’t run the ball in this league, pass rushers will chew you up. They see you pass every play, they’ll feast. They’re just like sharks in the water. They’ll attack you. You’ve got to keep them honest. You’ve got to wear them down.”
LSU has kept it balanced this season between its running and passing. But Burrow, Brady and company do not share Smart’s philosophy, which sounds like that of former LSU coach Les Miles.
“We think we can score every time we touch the football,” Burrow said Saturday after the Tigers put up 714 yards in the 58-37 win at Ole Miss. “And honestly, I get a little frustrated if we don’t score every time we touch the football.”
Burrow set the school record with 17 straight completions at Ole Miss.
“I got somewhere to go with the ball every time,” Burrow said.
LSU will have to play better run defense, though, or Georgia could seriously shorten the game. The Tigers allowed 402 yards rushing at Ole Miss.
“We need to look at it,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. “Obviously, 400 yards rushing. I don’t know if I’ve ever been a part of a team that gave up 400 yards rushing. So, you don’t want that on your football team. We need to look at it on film and see where we went wrong – schematically, personnel-wise, technically. Whatever it was, we’re going to fix it.”
Aranda’s defense, as has been the case at times this season, was clearly not aligned correctly as Ole Miss quarterback John Rhys Plumlee gashed the Tigers again and again for 212 yards on 21 carries with touchdown jaunts of 35, 46 and 60 yards, usually through the middle.
“No, I didn’t expect that. No. I really didn’t expect us to be that far out of position and for them to make those big plays,” Orgeron said. “We’ve got to look at it.”
LSU may need to look at the salary imbalance on its coaching staff, too. Perhaps a swap is in order. Aranda’s $2.5 million a year (highest for an assistant in the nation) pay could be divvied up between the much more deserving Brady and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger at $1.25 apiece with Aranda getting the $1.2 million Ensminger ($800,000) and Brady ($400,000) share.
Just a thought.
THE GUILBEAU POLL: 1. LSU (10-0, 6-0 SEC). 2. Alabama (9-1, 6-1). 3. Georgia (9-1, 6-1). 4. Florida (9-2, 6-2). 5. Auburn (7-3, 4-3). 6. Texas A&M (7-3, 4-2). 7. Tennessee (5-5, 3-3). 8. Mississippi State (4-6, 2-5). 9. South Carolina (4-6, 3-5). 10. Kentucky (5-5, 3-5). 11. Ole Miss (4-7, 2-5). 12. Vanderbilt (2-8, 1-6). 13. Missouri (5-5, 2-4). 14. Arkansas (2-8, 0-6).
THIS SATURDAY’S GAMES: Western Carolina at No. 5 Alabama, 11 a.m., ESPN; Samford at No. 16 Auburn, 11 a.m., SEC Network; No. 24 Texas A&M at No. 4 Georgia, 2:30 p.m., CBS; Tennessee-Martin at Kentucky, 2:30 p.m., SEC Network; East Tennessee State at Vanderbilt, 2:30 p.m., SEC Network Alternate; Arkansas at No. 1 LSU, 6 p.m., ESPN; Abilene Christian at Mississippi State, 6:30 p.m., SEC Network Alternate; Tennessee at Missouri, 6:30 p.m., SEC Network. Open: Florida, Ole Miss, and South Carolina.
LAST SATURDAY’S GAMES: No. 1 LSU 58, Ole Miss 37; No. 4 Alabama 38, Mississippi State 7; No. 5 Georgia 21, No. 13 Auburn 14; No. 11 Florida 23, Missouri 6; Texas A&M 30, South Carolina 6; Kentucky 38, Vanderbilt 14.
NOTE OF THE WEEK: LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is 589 yards away from becoming the SEC’s all-time leading passer for a season. He has 3,687 yards now with as many as five games remaining and at least four should LSU clinch the SEC West to reach the SEC Championship Game. Kentucky’s Tim Couch set the current record with 4,275 yards in the 1998 season.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “You know things have changed around LSU when you have 700 yards of offense, and everyone is upset in the locker room.”
… LSU quarterback Joe Burrow after the 58-37 win over Ole Miss Saturday in which the two teams combined for 1,328 yards – 714 by LSU and 614 by Ole Miss – was the third most in an SEC game ever.