#6 LSU (4-0, 1-0) at #9 Georgia (2-1, 1-0)
Saturday, 3:30 PM EST, CBS
Line: Georgia -3
This is a meeting of two of the elder statesmen of the SEC. Mark Richt has been with Georgia for 13 seasons and Les Miles has been at LSU for 9. Under Mark Richt, the Georgia Bulldogs have gone 120-41 and have won or tied for the SEC East Crown in six of his twelve seasons. Les Miles has gone 89-21 at LSU and his Tigers have won or tied for the SEC West Crown in three of his eight seasons and oh yeah, they also won a National Championship in 2007. The series between Miles and Richt is tied at 2-2 with the last two games going the way of LSU. While other teams will have their say, we could be getting an early look at the 2013 SEC Championship Game.
So far this season both teams have opened up with tough schedules. Georgia has played Clemson and South Carolina and LSU has faced TCU and Auburn. Both teams come into this game undefeated in conference play although Georgia does have one blemish on their record as they lost to Clemson in their opener.
The biggest storyline in this game will be LSU QB Zach Mettenberger's return to Athens. Mettenberger grew up in the Athens area and his mom, Tammy, has worked in Georgia's football office as an administrative assistant longer than Richt has been at Georgia (and still works there but Richt gave her this week off). Mettenberger grew up around the Georgia program and originally battled Aaron Murray for the starting job in Athens before he was kicked off the team due to a violation of team rules. Now Mettenberger is back in the SEC and he's playing better than ever under new LSU Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron. How will Mettenberger's homecoming end?
For Georgia to win: If you watched the North Texas game last week then you know that Georgia has some issues on special teams. They gave up a 99 yard kick-off return for a TD and a blocked punt for a TD. Georgia won 45-21 but they would have won 45-7 without those two gaffes. To win, Georgia needs to play sound football on offense, defense and special teams and need to minimize mistakes. Despite playing two Top 10 teams in their first three games, Georgia is sixth in the Nation in total offense. Georgia doesn't need to change a lot to win this game but they need to not put their defense in bad situations (or allow points on special teams) and not make unforced errors.
For LSU to win: LSU needs to be balanced on offense but they need to punish the young Georgia defense with the battering ram they call Jeremy Hill. In three games Hill is averaging 8.36 yards per carry and has 6 TDs. LSU needs to control the clock and keep the Georgia offense off of the field and out of rhythm. Aaron Murray is a great rhythm QB and Mike Bobo is a great rhythm play-caller. Get one or both of those guys out of sync and this game is LSU's to lose.
Key Players (Georgia): Kenarious Gates, Dallas Lee, David Andrews, Chris Burnette, John Theus and Kolton Houston. AKA, Georgia's offensive line. Against Clemson, the offensive line allowed four sacks but since then (and a game including Jadeveon Clowney) have only allowed two. Georgia's offensive line needs to continue it's improved play at home and protect Murray and allow him time to throw and make good decisions. Against Auburn, LSU's secondary had some issues and Murray will be able to take advantage of those issues more than Nick Marshall did. Protect Murray and give Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall a little bit of daylight and it will be a long day for the Tigers.
Key Player (LSU): Zach Mettenberger. Mettenberger is not LSU's best player but because of the huge spotlight that will be on him, he will be their most important player today. Will he come out and try to be a hero and make some early mistakes? Or will he play within himself and take what the game gives him? Last year, Mettenberger had a QB rating of 128.34 which ranked him 11th in the SEC. So far this year he has a QB rating of 193.61 and trails only Murray in that statistical category. Mettenberger has 10 TDs and 1 INT so far this year. If he can continue to play error free football, the Tigers could give Georgia their first SEC loss of 2013.
Key Stat: In 2013, LSU is converting 56.52% on third down. Georgia is converting just 39.02%. Keep an eye on who converts third downs and is able to keep their offense on the field and the pressure on the opposing defense.