ATLANTA – Georgia’s defense has answered just about every challenge it has faced this season, but the Bulldogs' playoff hopes hinge on conquering LSU’s high-powered offense in Saturday’s SEC championship game in Atlanta. Who wins out when the Tigers have the ball likely will determine who wins the conference title, considering No. 1 LSU is second in the nation in scoring offense at 48.7 points while the No. 4 Bulldogs rank second in scoring defense at 10.4 points.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: LSU -7
The LSU offense centers around senior quarterback Joe Burrow, who is the first player in SEC history to pass for 4,000 yards (setting a conference record with 4,366 yards) and at least 40 touchdowns (44). “I think the things that he’s done, not to say we couldn’t do it with another quarterback, but he was the perfect quarterback at the perfect time for us to get in the spread offense,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron told the media Monday. The Bulldogs are one of two teams in the nation (Clemson) to not allow more than 20 points in a game this season, ranking second nationally in rushing defense (71 yards per game) while senior safety J.R. Reed and junior safety Richard LeCounte anchor a defense that’s fourth nationally in total defense (257 yards). “This group plays really hard and well together,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart told reporters Monday. “But this obviously will be the ultimate test. Best offensive unit we have played all the way around.”
ABOUT GEORGIA (10-1, 7-1 SEC)
Linebacker Monty Rice leads the Bulldogs with 79 tackles while LeCounte owns 53 stops (4.5 for loss) and two interceptions, and Georgia has only surrendered 11 passing touchdowns in 11 games. Junior running back D’Andre Swift ranks fourth in the SEC in rushing yards (1,203) with seven touchdowns, and his 100.3 average rushing yards is fifth in the league, but he left last week’s 52-7 rout of Georgia Tech with a left shoulder injury. Junior quarterback Jake Fromm has passed for 2,385 yards and 21 touchdowns against only three interceptions, but will be without receiver Lawrence Cager (ankle surgery) while leading receiver freshman George Pickens is suspended for the first half Saturday.
ABOUT LSU (12-0, 8-0)
Burrow passed for 352 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s 50-7 rout of Texas A&M, and he ranks second nationally in passing yards, touchdowns, passing yards per game (363.8) and passing efficiency (203). Sophomore receiver Ja’Marr Chase leads the country with 17 touchdown receptions and is second with 1,457 yards, while junior receiver Justin Jefferson is 16th with 1,092 yards and tied for fifth with 13 touchdown receptions. The Tigers defense comes in off its best performance of the season, holding Texas A&M to 169 yards of total offense while recording six sacks and a safety.
1. LSU junior RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire leads the SEC in rushing touchdowns (16) and is third in rushing yards (1,234).
2. Burrow passed for 200 yards and a touchdown while Edwards-Helaire rushed for 145 yards as the Tigers beat Georgia 36-16 last season.
3. LSU has scored 74 offensive touchdowns this season, 57 coming on drives of three minutes or fewer.
PREDICTION: LSU 31, Georgia 21