Saturday, September 28, 2013
Five things: LSU-Georgia
By Greg Ostendorf
LSU is quickly emerging as a national-title contender. The Tigers look like the most balanced team in the SEC through the first four weeks, but they face their toughest yet on Saturday when they visit Georgia for a top-10 matchup between the hedges.
Happy homecoming: Zach Mettenberger began his college career at Georgia but transferred in 2010 after losing out to Aaron Murray in the quarterback competition. Saturday, he will return to Athens as the starting quarterback for LSU. It has been a crazy ride for Mettenberger, but he has made giant strides as a senior, throwing for 10 touchdowns and just one interception in his first four games. It will be his first true road test of the season, which is something he struggled with a year ago, but if he can continue to play well and perform against his old team, it could be the difference in whether or not LSU leaves with a victory.
Ground and pound: The key to any good quarterback is a solid running game, especially on the road. It is no different for Mettenberger, and he happens to have one of the best running backs in the SEC running behind him. Sophomore Jeremy Hill racked up a career-high 183 yards and three touchdowns last week against Auburn, and he’ll be counted on again this Saturday against Georgia. Hill missed LSU's first game because of an arrest last spring, but since his return, he has averaging 8.3 yards per carry, tops in the SEC among payer with 40 or more carries.
Getting Beckham loose: LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham might be the most explosive player on the field Saturday. He has taken a backseat to counterpart Jarvis Landry the last two games, but the 6-foot, 187-pound dynamo could break one at any moment. Through four games, he is averaging 19.5 yards per catch. Georgia also has to be careful with him in the return game. The Bulldogs’ special teams struggled last week against North Texas, giving up a 99-yard kickoff return. Beckham has yet to score on a return this season, but he has shown how dangerous he can be in the open field.
Winning the battle up front: It's important for LSU's offensive line to create holes for Hill and protect Mettenberger, but it's just as important for the defensive line to win its battle up front. The Tigers shut out Auburn in the first half last week, but when it was all said and done, the visiting team rushed for more than 200 yards. Auburn's Tre Mason had 132 yards and a touchdown by himself. Georgia running back Todd Gurley is on another level. He could have a field day against LSU if the defense doesn't improve. The play of defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson will be critical to stopping Gurley and slowing down the Bulldogs.
Weathering the storm: The infamous "Blackout" game backfired against Alabama back in 2008, but Georgia coach Mark Richt is hoping to see plenty of red inside Sanford Stadium on Saturday, urging fans to wear red to the game. There's no doubt it will be as difficult an environment as LSU is likely to see this year. The Tigers have a lot of youth and inexperience, especially on defense, so it will be important to get off to a quick start and try and keep the crowd out of it. They simply can't afford to let the Bulldogs jump out to an early lead in front of their home crowd.