By William Neilson Writer


Georgia Pass vs. LSU Pass Defense
EDGE: Georgia

David Greene is possibly playing the best football of his career right now. Last week's performance against USC was incredible, especially under pressure. He went 7-for-7 on 3rd downs and threw for two touchdowns against a USC defense that has owned him the last two years. The thing that Greene's has shown this year that wasn't particularly good the two previous years is his downfield touch. He killed Clemson with a deep pass and hit South Carolina last week on two deep passes to Reggie Brown, who seems to be his new go-to-WR since Fred Gibson has been out. No more are the days of short, quick passes. Greene's ability to catch the blitz and get rid of the ball are tops in the SEC, bar none. Fred Gibson is out for the game but that isn't a HUGE mark on this offense as seniors Michael Johnson/Damian Gary and Junior Reggie Brown are all capable backups. Don't forget about true freshman Sean Bailey either as he hasn't seen much action as of yet but could be a big surprise in the clutch.

LSU's secondary has played quite good coming into the game. Last week against a rather solid Western-Illinois saw Corey Webster intercept two balls (three for the team). Speed and experience are their biggest assets. This team is very quick as well as full of hard hitting players. If you want to disrupt the Georgia passing game you are going to need to beat on their WRs or Greene. The cornerbacks for LSU will have to execute their blitzes perfectly, because if they don't, Greene will beat them deep. The UGA OL has played well this season, but they haven't been thrown around that much. Challenging them to pick up new formations will be something that LSU needs to throw at them. With Gibson out, height is now in LSU's favor, as none of the UGA WRs are over 6'3 and have seen lots of front experience in big games.

LSU Pass vs. Georgia Pass Defense
Slight Edge: LSU

Matt Mauck may not have all the stats or awards, but he gets the job done. LSU's hasn't played many hard-nosed teams yet this year but Mauck has been quite impressive when given the chance. Last week saw him throw for over 300 yards and four touchdowns. In also doesn't hurt to have maybe the best Wide Receiver in the country in Michael Clayton on your team. Want to see domination? Look at his stats the last three games. He caught for 162 yards against WIU, 162 against ULM, and 109 yards against Arizona. If Clayton plays, there may not be an answer to him, no matter who plays against his side. Mauck's knock in the beginning of this year was that he wasn't a good down-field passer. Well in truth, he doesn't have to be. LSU is loaded at WR and have plenty of guys who can make YAC. When you have the team speed at WR that LSU does with Green, Clayton, and company, good things will happen to you. Mauck has proven he can come into the big game and get it done and against a UGA defense that is playing very well, he will need to have his "A" game or it could be a long game. Reading the blitzes and capitalizing on their youth is going to be a huge factor.

Georgia's pass defense has been much better then expected with all of their injuries and suspensions. They shut down Clemson's air attack along with an onslaught of MTSU and USC quarterbacks. Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder deserves all the credit. Sean Jones is quickly turning into an incredible cornerback. He had two INTs last week, and the rest of the secondary players aren't making any mistakes in coverage formations. Many variation blitz packages were thrown at Clemson and USC to perfection. This has been the main reason for the small amount of passing success against them. Though Georgia did get beat in a few one-on-one situations against USC, none were of much importance, and they were done when the game was already in hand. This week, expect UGA to start slow and cautiously move towards the aggressive side. It's important to see how Mauck responds to certain plays. Is he really that mobile? Can he pick up certain packages? The LBs for Georgia have plenty of speed so that takes off a vast amount of pressure on the short pass-game.

Georgia Run vs. LSU Run Defense

The Georgia running game was supposed to be a weak link this year but Micheal Cooper is doing everything he can to not hear any of that. Cooper was again impressive, rushing for 71 yards and on the first drive scampering for 43 yards. If Cooper can continue his success, it will take off a huge amount of focus off Greene. Not only does UGA have Cooper, though, they also have capable backs in Ronnie Powell and true-freshman Kregg Lumpkin, who saw his first action last week. I don't expect to see much switching against LSU. Richt will try and solidify the game with Cooper. The offensive line for UGA has been getting continually better, but they haven't faced a DL like LSU's. UGA will need to stay injury free and hope that none of their young guns get flustered.

LSU's front few are very experienced and talented. Marquis Hill and Marcus Spears are two studs with good speed and great tackling ability, even in the middle of a pack. The first few games have seen the LSU D-Line hold the other teams main running backs in check (64 yards, 61,yards 21 yards). A major quality of this defensive front is the size and athletic ability that all bring. None of these big boys are people that will just be thrown around, and they are going against a Georgia offensive line that is brand new this year. LSU needs to start the game off with a thunder that Georgia's line hasn't seen. They need to try and overwhelm them quickly. Doing this can change the game very quickly into LSU's hands.

LSU Run vs. Georgia Run Defense
EDGE: Georgia

Georgia's rush defense has been excellent. Losing Jonathan Sullivan to the pros was a huge blow, yet David Pollack and company haven't lost a beat. Though Pollack had no specific stats to speak of against USC, his presense was unreal in many players. He blocked running plays, rushed the QB, and forced the USC backup to throw an INT across his body. Let's not forget Robert Gathers who has another good day and continues to be under-rated. The DL was the main reason why Clemson and USC had no running games of which to speak. They will be facing a top-notch OL that has a good amount of experience and some solid depth.

Sharone Carey had a breakout game last week with over 120 yards on 21 carries, while usual starter Joseph Addai struggled with the ball, fumbling twice. Addai and Carey are strong RBs who combine great speed with good field-vision. Carey was a huge recruit out of HS who eventually landed at LSU and is still trying to make a name for himself. A running game against UGA is needed - Mauck can't do everything by himself. The OL hasn't really been tested this season and this is definitively their first challenge. The Offensive line at LSU is very experienced and knows how to push their weight around. Wilkerson and Whitworth are two of the best O-linemen in the SEC, and they will need big games if they want to stop Pollack.

Special Teams
EDGE: Georgia

This was quite easy. Georgia easily out-distances LSU in special teams. Billy Bennett was possibly one of the best kickers in Division 1 last year and has continued his superior kicking ways this year (7-of-8 FGAs, longest only 42), while new freshman punter Gordon Ely-Kelso was last week named "SEC Special Teams Player of the Week", averaging over 41 in five attempts. Though having Fred Gibson out as a return man is hurtful, Damian Gary is still a very good replacement at KRs and PRs, too.

LSU is coming off a nightmare of a kicking game last week. Kicker Ryan Gaudet has now missed field goals in two of his first three games. Punter Donnie Jones has done an incredible job punting the ball, averaging over 50+ yards in the first two games and not even punting last week. Having that ability to launch the ball over 50 yards is a huge advantage to LSU especially at home. Having Carey return the ball is also a plus for LSU - he can be dangerous.

Final Thoughts
This may be one of the hardest games that I have ever had to predict. Both teams bring incredible talent and speed to the game. Both teams have great coaching staffs. Both teams have future's that continue to get better by the season.

But I see the big difference being the play of David Greene. He has just been incredible in his 3 years at Georgia. He can read a defense, fake audible, and kill you down the field, in the short field, or wherever. He has a coach that he can relate to and a backup who changes the perception of the offense. His running game has surprised everyone this year and given him breathing room for his passes. If Cooper, Powell, and Lumpkin can muster up a good running attack, the game should go well for Georgia.

But let's not forget LSU. They have a QB that has also won the SEC. He has a 9-1 record when starting and has played maybe his best football this year. Mauck is healthy and mature enough to handle the spotlight as the #1 guy. LSU has more speed then Georgia. Their secondary is lightening fast while their WRs are maybe the best in the SEC. Dropped balls were a problem to start last year off, but not this year. Addai and Carey are a heck of a 1-2 combo AND it helps that they have a strong offensive line that can give them holes. Don't be surprised to see a 50/50 game unless one takes over. Coin flip says…be sure not to include this game on your card.

PICK: Georgia - 27, LSU - 20