Championship Week Football Preview: #1 LSU vs. #14 Georgia

In a weekend filled with exciting College Football action, the SEC championship game between the undefeated #1 LSU Tigers (12-0, 8-0 SEC) and the #14 Georgia Bulldogs (10-2, 7-1 SEC) looks set to be one of the most intriguing options for online sports betting on Saturday, despite the fact that LSU likely will play for a national title with a win or a loss.

There hasn’t been any question about the level of talent on display for Les Miles’ LSU Tigers this season, as the team looks to complete the best football season in school history on the back of a campaign that thus far has featured 7 wins over ranked opponents. With arguably the best defense in the country on display (especially considering their strength of schedule) football fans have watched the Tigers week-in and week-out simply manhandle the opposition on both sides of the football, regardless of whom or where LSU was playing. In a tough environment sure to be on hand in the Georgia Dome tonight, it’ll be that poise in big-game match-ups that could wind up the difference in the outcome, especially with a tough challenge against a much-improved and defensively sound Georgia Bulldogs squad. The bottom line season stats are convincing for LSU backers coming in this match-up; 3 wins against Top 3 teams, 10.6 points allowed to opposing offenses, and an average margin of victory of 27.6 points (most recently backed up in a 41-17 rout of then-#3 Arkansas last week).

Hedging the offense on a potent mix of running backs, the Tigers’ ground game has racked up a whopping 32 TDs this season, with Michael Ford (721 yards, 7 TDs), Spencer Ware (687 yards, 8 TDs) and Alfred Blue (445 yards, 6 TDs) doing the bulk of the damage to opposing defenses. Against a strong Georgia front that ranks 5th in the nation in total defense (271 yards/game) and 10th in scoring (allowing just 17.8 points/game), the Tigers well-rounded rushing game will benefit from the veteran presence of Jordan Jefferson, who has stepped up to lead LSU down the stretch with great poise and good game management, and good short-game passing that keeps defenses respecting all aspects of the Tigers’ offensive plan but as their game centers on the ground attack, expect to see plenty of action from a Tigers backfield squad that features 4 running backs with 6 TDs for the first time in school history. However, aside from the fact that LSU can overcome opposing offenses toe-to-toe this season, what has been truly exciting to watch in Tigers games this year is on the defensive side of the ball, led by the impressive and most certainly NFL-bound talent of cornerback Tyrann Mathieu. Returning a punt 92 yards, and also forcing two fumbles last week against Arkansas, Mathieu leads a swarming defensive group that has scored as many touchdowns as they’ve allowed (6), and importantly for this match-up has made life very difficult for the most talented passers in the country week after week. Facing another good quarterback tonight, it’ll be interesting to see if LSU has any troubles repeating their strong shutdown road performances, but if history says anything, the Tigers have the advantage against any passer, no matter what environment the teams are playing in.

On the Georgia side of the ball, Bulldogs fans have much to be happy about with this season’s bounce back, which has seen Georgia rip off 10 straight wins, albeit certainly against less talented teams than LSU has faced. Nonetheless, Georgia has enjoyed being an underdog team this season, and continues to win in gritty fashion behind a very talented Aaron Murray at QB, who utilizes a host of offensive weapons to give the Bulldogs a balanced approach in each game. A big question mark for tonight’s game will be the status of leading rusher Isaiah Crowell (172 carries, 832 yards, 5 TDs), who sat out last week with an ankle injury, and against an LSU defense that ranks 4th in the nation against the run (allowing just over 86 yards/game) Georgia will need every asset they have if they wish to stand a chance of keeping pace tonight. Expect a bit more balance in the running game for the Bulldogs tonight, as they work in second back Carlton Thomas, but perhaps the most important piece for Georgia’s game plan tonight is to get quarterback Aaron Murray off on a good foot, finding ways to exploit the smothering LSU defense any way they can. Luckily for Murray (2698 yards, 32 TDs, 155 rating), he has a host of options, as 4 Bulldog receivers have hauled in at least 31 catches, and each of the four top catchers have at least 4 TDs on the season as Murray likes to spread the ball around. That will certainly factor in well against LSU, who has excelled at shutting down the top 2 options in opponents’ passing games, but may find themselves having to spread out the defensive wealth across all 4 wide-outs in the most pass-heavy formations they’ll see tonight. With the top six receivers totaling 26 of the 34 passing TDs this year, its essential for Georgia to have Murray make as few mistakes as possible against the opportunistic Tigers secondary, and for the Bulldogs to find success in the passing game early as little room on the ground can be expected. If Georgia and Aaron Murray can find a way to do what Alabama, Auburn and Arkansas QBs failed to do, which is put up more than two touchdowns of total offense, and if Georgia’s respectable defense can find a way to limit the damage of the LSU ground game, there is at least a slight chance that the Bulldogs could squeak by with undoubtedly the biggest upset of the college campaign thus far.

Betting lines for #1 LSU vs. #14 Georgia

LSU marches into this match-up with plenty of confidence, even though they’ll be playing in a hostile Georgia Dome environment for the SEC crown. Getting -550 odds as the favorite at Oddsmaker.ag, there’s little to be gained from chasing wagers on the money line, unless of course you’re after an underdog pick with Georgia getting +425 odds ahead of game time. Against the spread, LSU has to cover 2 touchdowns at -110 odds, but in a game that likely features very good defensive play on both sides of the ball, betting on Georgia to cover the +14 points on the spread could be a very sound investment to make if you’re confident the Bulldogs can produce offense against LSU. I for one do not have that confidence heading into tonight’s match-up, as I fully expect LSU to be at their best defensively, and make life very aggravating for Georgia especially if they can produce a few turnovers in this contest. If we happen to find ourselves in a similar match-up like Alabama vs LSU, whereby both offenses slug it out on the ground and little is available through the air, the 46.5 points on the over/under may be a prime wager despite the two teams collectively scoring 72 points per contest. With neither side wanting to give up any points in this match-up, it’s fair to expect a low scoring first half of play, but as we’ve seen in LSU games this year (aside from the 9-6 OT game vs. Alabama), the Tigers have no issues with pouring on the scoring up until the final whistle, and as such should have sports bettors lined up well to expect a breakout of total points based on LSU’s production alone.

Our Pick to Win:

With LSU being heavily favored and undoubtedly the more talented team head-to-head in this match-up, it’s hard to work out a scenario in which Georgia can overcome all odds tonight, even with a lot of help. LSU simply doesn’t make enough mistakes with the ball for opponents to take advantage of, and with an offense that can grind and score very quickly, Georgia faces its toughest challenge of the year tonight up against a 3-headed monster in the Tigers backfield. I expect Bulldogs QB Aaron Murray to have flashes of brilliance in tonight’s game, but I also expect a few key mistakes to be the difference maker in this game, as LSU’s defense always seems to factor heavily in the outcome or at least direction of every game they play. While it’ll be a tighter affair for LSU tonight, with Georgia’s stout defense anxious to show off their prowess on a national stage like this, we’ll take LSU to get the road win to secure their national title shot and SEC championship, prevailing 27-17 in the Georgia Dome in a great SEC match-up.

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