LSU and Georgia enter Saturday’s SEC Championship Game as two of the hottest teams in college football. LSU holds the FBS’ longest active winning streak at 13 games while Georgia’s 10-game streak is third-longest.
With a win, LSU solidifies its place in the BCS Championship Game and becomes just the fifth team in the BCS era to be a wire-to-wire No. 1 in the BCS Standings. It’s worth noting two of the previous four that went wire-to-wire lost the title game.
As LSU goes after its 11th SEC title, and second under Les Miles, it will be all about defense despite a Tigers offense that leads the conference in scoring at 38.2 points per game.
The Tigers are ranked top six nationally in five major defensive categories: turnover margin (first), total defense (second), scoring defense (second), rush defense (fourth) and pass defense (sixth). LSU has scored seven defensive or special teams touchdowns, which is just five less than their defense has allowed all year (12).
Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne lead a unit which has allowed just 27 plays of 20 yards or longer, second fewest in FBS. They have held their opponents to a completion percentage of 13.3 on passes of 20 yards or longer and no opposing player has more than one reception on passes 20 yards or longer. In fact the Tigers have more interceptions (eight) than their opponents have receptions (six) on 20-yard throws.
As a result, it takes an average of 10 plays per drive to score a touchdown against LSU, highest average in FBS.
Why has LSU been so successful on defense? One reason has been the blitz.
LSU 3rd Down Pass Defense
LSU sends five or more pass rushers on 38.5 percent of its opponents’ dropbacks on third down and is the only team in FBS that has not allowed a touchdown pass on third down this season.
With all the talk focusing on LSU’s defense, it should be noted that Georgia is no slouch on that side of the ball either. They are the only SEC team to force its conference opponents to no gain, or a loss, on at least 40 percent of their plays in every game.
That being said, Georgia has to be successful on offense to crack LSU’s undefeated armor.
Quarterback Aaron Murray leads the SEC and is sixth nationally with 16 touchdown passes on first down this season. However when it comes to the deep ball, Murray has struggled recently.
In his last two games he completed 2 of 12 passes of 20 yards or longer including two interceptions and no touchdowns. For the season, Murray has completed 28.8 percent of these throws with four interceptions.
Aaron Murray Throws Of 20+ Yards
Last 2 Seasons
Murray, who has thrown for a school-record 32 touchdowns, including 14 in his last four games, needs to play well if Georgia hopes to pull off the upset.
Saturday will be the third time these two teams will meet in the conference championship (each has won one). It is interesting that the winner of the last five SEC Championship games has gone on to win the BCS National Championship. Ironically, the last winner that did not win the title was Georgia in 2005. That year, the Bulldogs defeated LSU in the championship game, but lost to West Virginia in the Sugar Bowl.