The (10-2, 7-1) Georgia Bulldogs may be playing in their home state of Georgia, but in the case of the #14th-ranked Bulldogs and their showdown with the top-ranked (12-0, 8-0) LSU Tigers in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, having the “home-field advantage” may not be enough.
Hopefully, for the Bulldogs their second trip to the Georgia Dome will be more successful than it’s first one.
The Bulldogs would be defeated by the—then—#5th-ranked Boise State Broncos, 35-21 in the season opener.
Playing in the Georgia Dome in the city of it’s most bitter rival—Georgia Tech—the Bulldogs now have to hope that being the “home team” will give them the extra proverbial boost to upset the top ranked team in the BCS standings.
While Georgia did not play LSU, Alabama or Arkansas during the regular season, the Bulldogs did not manage to go 3-0 against SEC West teams, Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State and 4-1 against the SEC East, with the lone loss coming to #12-ranked South Carolina.
Georgia would also go 2-2 against teams from the Top 25.
And since losing their first two games against both the Broncos and Gamecocks, the Bulldogs would tear off ten straight wins including a 45-7 romp over the defending BCS champion Auburn Tigers, 45-7.
The Bulldogs have two things that may work in their favor in hopes of upsetting the Tigers—history and a team in LSU that may come out flat.
This will be the third meeting between the Tigers and Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game, with both team winning one game each.
In 2003, the #5th-ranked Bulldogs would lose to the #3rd-ranked Tigers, 34-14. In 2005, the #13th-ranked Bulldogs would upset the #3rd-ranked Tigers 34-14.
Much like 2005, the 2011 Tigers-Bulldogs SEC title game sets up in a eerily similar fashion. The question that remains is that for Georgia will history repeat itself?
The Bulldogs are led by sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray, who has thrown for 2,698 yards, 32 touchdowns and ten interceptions. Murray has also completed 61.0% of his passes and complied a QB rating of 155.4
If there is one area of concern in facing the fast and relentless Tigers defense is that Murray has also been sacked 24 times.
The key for the Bulldogs is that Murray must find a way to get untracked and attack the Tigers downfield, while LSU does have an All-American such as cornerback Tyrann Mathieu in the secondary, Murray needs to be risk averse and take chances early and often.
Georgia must find a way to get freshman wideout Malcolm Mitchell and junior tight end Orson Charles involved early and attack the Tigers on the perimeter.
Mitchell who leads all Bulldogs receivers in receiving with 582 yards and Charles who leads the Bulldogs in receiving touchdowns with five, need to be aggressive in attacking the Tigers downfield.
The Bulldogs also have one of the best defenses in the country, as they ranked tenth overall in the FBS by giving up an average of 17.8 points a game and fifth in total defense in allowing an average of 271.1 yards a game.
One of the Bulldogs secrets of it’s recent success is the fact that they have created 26 turnovers during their 10-game win streak.
And in this game, the Bulldogs defense might be the difference maker.
While the Tigers ranked 13th in the FBS in points per game at 38.2, they also ranked a mere 62nd overall in total yards.
If Georgia can contain LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson and make him more of a pocket passer, then the Bulldogs have a chance. LSU also ranks 104th in passing yards in the FBS, with an average of 176.5 yards a game.
Georgia wins this game if they are able to hit LSU with big plays down the field early and run the ball effectively with freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell.
Crowell, who sat out against Georgia Tech with a left ankle injury, is fifth in the SEC in rushing with 832 yards.
Going against LSU’s fourth ranked rushing defense may be too much to ask for a true freshman in a conference championship game.
While the young Bulldogs may be able to give the battle-hardened and well-season LSU Tigers a game, look for the Tigers to dominate the Bulldogs in Atlanta.
Prediction: LSU 17 Georgia 10