Strange things happen in big games

mlough@macon.comDecember 1, 2011 

Maybe by now, many have just given up.

Perhaps they’ve put some views aside and might actually be able to enjoy the fact that their team is in the SEC championship.

Maybe. Perhaps. But I know some alleged diehards who still haven’t and won’t because they just don’t believe in Mark Richt.

That faction is pained that the Bulldogs are playing Saturday, because it cements Richt’s job security for a few more years. And yes, with only about five seniors among the top 40 players, those years could be mighty good ones.

But first things first, and that’s Georgia’s fourth trip to the title game since 2001, which is second in the SEC in that span, one behind LSU.

Funny how there’s ferocious bragging of the SEC’s greatness and power in one breath and the ignoring of success – four division titles and two conference championships and a 74.6-percent winning rate define “success” in most dictionaries – in the next.

That is and has been another conversation. Today, we have the here and now.

Note that a 14-point margin in Vegas is very different than a 14-point margin on the field, as evidenced by Georgia’s 14-point wins over Mississippi State and Mississippi. On the field, it’s not much.

So to say Georgia can’t beat LSU is, of course, absurd. This isn’t LSU and -- sorry -- Georgia State, or the Georgia of Johnny Griffith.

We’ve had upsets all season, and the season isn’t over.

Saturday is about defense, and the raving about Georgia’s is based more on perception than reality. If the Bulldogs haven’t beaten anybody – and that horse has long been pummeled to pony heaven -- it’s no stretch to say the defense really hasn’t played anybody, either.

Numbers galore back that up, some strongly and some not as much.

LSU’s defense has exerted more control than Georgia’s against good offenses, and we do know that the SEC was extremely top-heavy this season, good programs had bad years and the West’s best were a notch better than the East’s.

By no means is that to say Georgia’s defense hasn’t made great strides, but we don’t know how great it is because it hasn’t proven anything against good offenses.

It’s not as good as LSU’s, which yes, did give up 533 eye-opening yards to West Virginia (No. 16 in total offense) in a 47-21 win.

Put stats aside and just watch the defenses play. The Tigers have more playmakers and game-changers, which isn’t to infer Georgia’s cupboard is bare in those areas. We all know Jarvis Jones, Brandon Boykin and John Jenkins, to name a few.

That said, there’s no doubt here that Georgia’s No. 5 total defense can hold its own against LSU’s No. 62 offense.

Here’s the thing: We can’t expect Georgia executive offensive coordinator and playbook author Richt to ditch the 30 percent of that missive that he’s needed to ditch for years or to substantially change his philosophy in a week. One can only imagine if he did.

Georgia can win if Aaron Murray is no longer the most patient quarterback in the conference and uses his feet. The deep handoffs and slow-developing play-action passes could have this game over by halftime.

Georgia can win if Isaiah Crowell -- the latest example that ranking somebody before they show up on the next level, let alone play a down, is humorously fruitless - plays like he has something to prove, which he does.

Georgia can win if it loses the special teams aspect by only a little, and that would be huge. This has not been a great season for that unit in general, and LSU is loaded there.

Georgia can win if Richt channels some Les Miles and calls some surprises. Unofficially -- I tried to look it up -- Richt has tried maybe a half-dozen fake punts and field goals in 142 games. So, there’s always the chance that Richt has lulled us all right where he wants us.

That’s probably not the case, but Georgia is in a big football game -- which is supposed to be a good thing -- and strange things can happen.

Contact Michael A. Lough at 744-4626 or mlough@macon.com

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