Our 2013 NCAA Football schedule continues Saturday as Georgia welcomes LSU to Athens in one of the biggest games on the schedule this weekend. We’ll have complete coverage beginning at 3 PM Eastern on our WestwoodOne affiliates coast-to-coast and streaming live right here on WestwoodOneSports.com!
To get you ready for the game, our analyst Derek Rackley, who will call the game, filed this scouting report on the Tigers and the Bulldogs.
In a Nutshell: The LSU Tigers come into Athens, Georgia this weekend ranked sixth in the country with a perfect 4-0 record. Much of the talk surrounding LSU from a national perspective has centered around quarterback Zach Mettenberger and new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Mettenberger returns to Athens where his college career began, competing against Aaron Murray for the starting quarterback job as a freshman. It wasn’t an ideal start for the signal caller, eventually transferring and going through the junior college ranks before ending up at LSU. He’s off to a much better start this year with 10 touchdown passes through four games after having a total of 12 TD passes all of last year.
It doesn’t hurt that Mettenberger may have the best tandem of wide receivers in the country with Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr. And there’s no way to talk about the LSU offense without mentioning the running backs. The Tigers have always been known for having a stable of running backs and they have four different backs that will rotate through the game. Sophomore Jeremy Hill is the headliner of the pack and he’s gotten stronger each week since being suspended in the opener. He rushed for a career-high 183 yards and three TDs last week against Auburn and I would put him in the top ten of running backs in the country.
Like many SEC teams, LSU lost a TON of defensive players to the NFL this past April, but have once again reloaded. Defensive tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson are EXCELLENT players and you’ll likely see them playing on Sundays within the next year or two.
Player I’ll Be Watching: Zach Mettenberger has to play very well for LSU to win this ball game. It will be an extremely difficult environment with 92,000+ and the fact that he has history with UGA will only ratchet up the pressure a few more notches. What I want to see is how he reacts when faced with adversity. At some point, he’s going to get smacked in the mouth, throw an interception or something will go wrong for the offense. How does he perform after that point in the ball game?
What the Tigers need to do to win: Take advantage of the younger and inexperienced Georgia defense. In order for that to happen, Mettenberger will need to make a few big plays downfield in the passing game. Georgia will have no choice but to crowd the line of scrimmage in attempt to slow down Jeremy Hill and the LSU ground game. That should allow Landry and Beckham a few opportunities against man-to-man coverage, facing a Bulldog secondary that has six underclassmen on the 2-deep.
In a Nutshell: Even in the SEC, it’s rare to face three teams ranked in the top 10 in the country within a matter of four weeks, but that’s the challenge in front of the Bulldogs. They lost to then #8 Clemson in the opener on the road by a field goal, beat South Carolina at home by 11 points when the Gamecocks were sixth in the country and now face the 6th-ranked LSU Tigers.
The story for Georgia is similar to LSU in that the marquee players on this team are on the offensive side of the ball. Senior quarterback Aaron Murray threw three touchdown passes last week against North Texas, bringing his career total to 102. That puts him second in SEC history behind former Florida great Danny Wuerffel (114). LSU might have the best wide receiver tandem in college football, but Georgia might have the best running back tandem in the country with Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. It literally JUST occurred to me that Gurley reminds me of a taller version of former Alabama running back Trent Richardson. They both possess that unique blend of speed combined with strength and physicality. Gurley definitely looks the part getting off the bus and he backs it up with his production on the field. After running for nearly 1,400 yards and 17 TDs as a true freshman last year, he’s quickly avoided any sophomore slump by leading the SEC in rushing through three games at over 125 yards per outing.
Defensively, Georgia has been exposed a bit early this season with all the new faces forced into action against stiff competition. They gave up a total of 921 yards of total offense to Clemson and South Carolina, but they come into the LSU game with some confidence after holding North Texas to just 238 yards of total offense including just seven yards rushing.
Player I’ll Be Watching: Slight curveball here, actually not a particular player but how about the Georgia special teams unit? Last week against North Texas they had a kickoff returned 99 yards for a touchdown and also had a punt blocked for a touchdown. In the opener against Clemson, a poor exchange between long snapper and holder caused a field goal to be aborted. There have been some bright spots to the UGA special teams as well, punter Collin Barber is averaging nearly 48 yards per punt but a couple bad plays will always overshadow the good on special teams.
What the Bulldogs need to do to win: Lean on their senior quarterback. Aaron Murray is often criticized that although he’s racked up sensational numbers throughout his career, the Bulldogs have come up short in many of the big games, most notably the last two SEC Championship games. Murray can throw touchdown passes and make audibles at the line of scrimmage, but he can’t also tackle opposing running backs and pick off passes. He needs help from everyone else wearing the Bulldog helmet on Saturday afternoon. After beating #6 South Carolina in week two, Murray would not only silence his critics with a win over sixth-ranked LSU, but also set up Georgia for another run at a conference championship.
John Tautges and Derek Rackley will have all the action from between the hedges as Georgia hosts LSU. Coverage begins at 3:00 PM Eastern and you can listen to the broadcast right here on WestwoodOneSports.com.