It's gameday: LSU eyes 11th SEC title
POSTED: Saturday, December 3, 2011 - 2:55pm
UPDATED: Saturday, December 3, 2011 - 2:55pm
Baton Rouge, La (NBC33) — Having already accomplished the first 12-0 regular season in school history, the top-ranked LSU football team will look to continue its historic run on Saturday as the undefeated Tigers face 12th-ranked Georgia in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game here at the Georgia Dome.
Kickoff between the Tigers and the Bulldogs is scheduled for 3:10 p.m. CT with the game being televised to a national audience on CBS. Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson and Tracy Wolfson will call the action for the CBS.
The game can also be heard on the LSU Sports Radio Network with legendary Voice of the Tigers Jim Hawthorne calling the action. He will be joined in the booth by former LSU great Doug Moreau, while Gordy Rush breakdowns the action from the sidelines.
LSU, winners of a nation-best 13 straight dating back to last season, advanced to the SEC Championship Game after posting an 8-0 conference record. The Tigers, who have won a school-record 11 games by double-figures this year, are coming off a 41-17 win over then No. 3 Arkansas last Friday.
LSU will be after the school's 11th SEC title and first since 2007 when the Tigers captured both the league crown as well as the national title.
Georgia has reeled off 10-straight wins after losing its first two games of the season. The Bulldogs, now 10-2 overall, captured the SEC Eastern Division crown with a 7-1 league record. The Bulldogs are coming off a 31-17 win over Georgia Tech last week in their regular-season finale.
Saturday's game will mark the first meeting between the two teams since a 20-13 LSU win over Georgia in Athens in 2009. It also represents the third time that LSU and Georgia have met in the SEC Championship Game. LSU beat the Bulldogs, 34-13, to claim the 2003 crown, while Georgia posted a 34-14 victory over the Tigers in the 2005 title game.
"We are honored to be here," LSU coach Les Miles said earlier today at a press conference to preview the game. "Every conference team starts this season with the same goal, and that is to win their division and meet here, East meets West for the championship. Our football team has accomplished, like Georgia, that opportunity, and now it's one game for the SEC Championship, and we're thrilled."
The Tigers and Bulldogs look very similar on paper as both are ranked among the top three or four in the SEC in nearly every offensive and defensive category. LSU and Georgia are also 1-2 in the league in turnover margin.
LSU goes into the contest ranked No. 2 in the nation in three defensive stats - total defense (248.42), scoring (10.58) and pass efficiency (95.82 rating). The Tigers will face a Georgia offense that is led by quarterback Aaron Murray. Murray, a sophomore, ranks second in the SEC in both passing yards per game (224.8) and total offense (235.6). In 12 games, Murray has thrown for 2,698 yards, a league-best 32 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions.
"I like to say he's mature beyond his years," Miles said of Murray. "He's a guy that makes wise decisions and gets the ball out of his hand quickly. He can pull it down and make a first down with a scramble if he needs to. He's just a very headsy quarterback."
The Tigers will attempt to slow Murray and the Georgia offense with a star-studded defense led by a pair of cornerbacks in Morris Claiborne (43 tackles, 5 interceptions) and Tyrann Mathieu (66 tackles, 6 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries, 2 interceptions).
LSU's front four is led by four sophomores - Sam Montgomery (41 tackles, 12.0 TFL, 8.0 sacks) Bennie Logan (46 tackles, 5.0 TFL), Michael Brockers (41 tackles, 7.5 TFL) and Barkevious Mingo (38 tackles, 13.5 TFL, 8.0 sacks).
As a unit, LSU has allowed just one first quarter TD all season and the Tiger secondary of Claiborne, Mathieu and Ron Brooks have combined to score six touchdowns this year. LSU has allowed only six passing TDs all season.
The Tigers balance a ferocious defense with an offense that leads the SEC in scoring at 38.2 points per game. The Tigers, who have scored 40 or more points a school-record eight times, are averaging 386.8 total yards per game (215.8 rushing, 171.0 passing).
Senior Jordan Jefferson, who has taken the reigns of the offense over the past four games, gives the Tigers a quarterback who can make plays with both is legs and his arm. Jefferson, who is the first 1,000-yard rushing quarterback in school history, has accounted for 253 yards and three TDs on the ground to go with 654 yards and five touchdowns through the air.
Senior Jarrett Lee, who started the first nine games this year, has thrown for 1,306 yards, 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions this year.
When the Tigers turn to the run, they do so with a stable of running backs led by a trio of sophomores - Michael Ford (721 yards, 7 TDs), Spencer Ware (687 yards, 8 TDs), and Alfred Blue (445 yards, 6 TDs) - along with a punishing true freshmen in Kenny Hilliard (248 yards, 6 TDs).
Wide receiver Rueben Randle continues to rank among the best in the SEC with 48 catches for 889 yards and eight touchdowns. Freshman Odell Beckham Jr. has chipped in with 36 receptions for 437 yards and two scores.
A win over Georgia will propel No. 1 ranked LSU into the BCS Championship Game, which will be played in the Superdome in New Orleans. However, many think that no matter what happens on Saturday, LSU should still be in the national title game. Nevertheless, Miles and the Tigers aren't looking past Saturday as they are focused on bringing home an 11th conference championship.
"I have given little thought to that," Miles said of the national championship game. "I do know that that's an issue out there for other folks. It's not one for us. We're very, very focused on the next game and a very quality Georgia opponent.
"For us, it's about this game and what we've accomplished to this point. We've put ourselves in position to play a championship game. That's this Saturday and against a very, very talented Georgia team. I promise you, our football team understands that."