It’s always fun to look back.
Before the 2018-19 season began, I wrote that Georgia head coach Kirby Smart is loaded at QB and that his only real problem is figuring out who will run the rock.
“Smart is hoping that freshman RB Zamir White, the top-ranked rusher in the 2018 recruiting class, will continue to amaze after racking up Hershel Walker-type numbers in high school,” read my – ahem – accurate prognostication. “Meanwhile, 5’11” senior Terry Godwin leads a deep if not superstar-laden WR corps.”
White has enjoyed nary a carry for the Dawgs in the young autumn. Instead, it’s been Elijah “Don’t Call Me Evander” Holyfield leading the way with 7.4 ypc on over 50 attempts. Godwin has been surpassed by 3 other wide receivers, including junior Mecole Hardman, who has 4 touchdown catches.
UGA is unbeaten, ranked #2 nationally, and the Bulldog defense hasn’t been threatened outside of a few anxious minutes in Columbia. As Ken Whisenhunt likes to say, “…and that’s what’s important.”
Meanwhile, LSU has exceeded all but the most Tiger-colored-goggle expectations at 5-1. The Tigers were the latest victim of a resurgent Florida squad in their last time out, leading to a favorite vs underdog betting scenario in an SEC contest that would have been considered a toss-up a few short days ago.
The 2 proud schools meet this Saturday afternoon, each with designs on winning its respective division. LSU hosts Alabama in 2 weeks, but scoring the upset in that one won’t make much of a difference if there are already 2 league losses on the ledger.
Betting Odds and Analysis: Georgia at LSU
Sportsbetting.ag is one of the best football betting sites around, but the odds managers there are in love with Asian handicapping in soccer and are still trying to figure out how to put an Asian Handicap on an American college football game with limited success.
The book’s current UGA-LSU point spread is set at a precarious (-7 ½) for the Dawgs, giving the odds-maker 2 ways to go once the action intensifies on Thursday and Friday.
If the action is heavy on LSU, then the site can fall back on a simple TD + XP spread, meaning that even a solid win for the visitors could wind up in a no-bet push. If bettors like Georgia to cover on the road instead, then it’s also the type of spread that could run up to (-9) or (-10) and bring about a ton of special teams and kicking discussions.
Those aren’t always a barrel of laughs or a parade of superstars. So let’s stick with forecasting the closing odds at around a touchdown line. If LSU is a decent bet at (+7) then surely the Tigers are a fantastic wager at (+7 ½). Sportsbetting.ag can make things as Asian as they want, we’ll just counter with some good old Tibetan wisdom. (Very old, in fact.)
Georgia is the (-310) moneyline favorite in a contest with an O/U of (50) total points.
The Bulldogs love to toy with teams early but have yet to encounter anyone they can’t bulldoze when the flip is switched on. Smart’s team is reminiscent to Nick Saban’s aforementioned Alabama squad in some ways – they’ll parry and thrust for a while but when they decide to bury you, good luck.
At 6-0 and undefeated in the SEC, there’s no reason to believe the Bulldogs aren’t on a crash-course for the SEC Championship Game and a potential spot in the College Football Playoff.
But that doesn’t mean they won’t lose unexpectedly. Many pundits had the LSU Tigers remaining unbeaten last week. SEC schools can lose a conference game and go on to win the national title, and sometimes underdog betting comes down to finding that one downer week. We’d better make sure it isn’t this one before touting a cover for the visitors.
The Bulldogs’ lowest scoring output is a 38-point showing 2 weeks ago against Tennessee, but the ’18 team is built around a crushing defense. Georgia boasts the nation’s 2nd best scoring D, holding 5 schools to 17 points or less. UGA held Mizzou’s Drew Lock to just 221 yards passing.
Georgia CB Deandre Baker is tops among NCAA defensive backs.
Jake Fromm’s control of the offense will keep highly-touted freshman Justin Fields on the sideline until further notice. Fromm’s QB rating through six games is 192.5; he’s thrown only 2 interceptions, and a 10.5 yards per attempt number (not yards per completion, yards per attempt) is just wild.
On Saturday, Fromm will try to do something he’s yet to accomplish as a Bulldog – beat a top 15 team on the road.
LSU will certainly be the Bulldogs’ best opponent so far – no disrespect to South Carolina.
Ed Orgeron’s Tigers slipped defensively against the Florida Gators, however. While the final score may suggest a defensive struggle, Florida actually moved the ball very well against the Tigers all day, a serious concern with the big, bad Dawg OL coming to town.
LSU surrendered 215 ground yards in the contest. That has to be tough to swallow for a team that has always prided itself in winning in the trenches.
As per usual, the LSU offense features multiple tailbacks. Nick Brossette (4.9 ypc on 118 carries) and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (4.7 ypc on 70 carries) are giving Tiger fans a little more to chew on (and a whole lot more 1st downs) than a lot of backs in the late Les Miles era did.
The big-picture good news is that Orgeron has a QB he trusts now, in the persona of Joe Burrow. The signal-caller has been outstanding all season. But the latest returns didn’t cash. Burrow, a former 4-star recruit and Ohio State transfer, struggled against Florida, completing only 55.9% of his passes to go along with 2 interceptions – his first 2 picks of the season.
He will have to return to his turnover-averse self on Saturday against Georgia because the Tigers can’t afford to give the Bulldogs extra possessions.
Handicapping the LSU vs Georgia Match-up
Each team will have its run defense tested, first and foremost.
Georgia’s defense is giving up only 113 yards per game on the ground, but LSU’s average yards-against just shot way up thanks to the turnstile-tackling display against the Gators.
I’m liking LSU to knuckle down and play better in the trenches this week. They are, after all, the team that exposed the Auburn Tigers in a 22-21 triumph earlier this season. There is no argument to be made that Georgia is a more powerful running team than Auburn. Well, maybe there is – but it’s only because the Tigers shut down the War Eagle (I’m not sure if that’s proper grammar usage of “War Eagle,” but it beats having to say “the Tigers shut down the Tigers” and confusing everybody).
Fromm isn’t necessarily more talented than Burrow, but he’s got more experience on the biggest stages. Whether or not UGA can run all night, the Dawgs will face 3rd and long at some point. When that happens, the LSU pass rush will match-up against strong OTs on the other side.
Louisiana State is a strong edge-rush team in general, but outside of junior OLB Michael Divinity Jr, nobody on the roster is setting the world on fire bringing down QBs. Safety Grant Delpit is a terror with 3 sacks and 3 interceptions, and the Bulldogs must prepare for his inevitable blitzes.
Georgia at LSU: My Point Spread Pick
In my UCF-Memphis preview, I say that bookmakers had placed an SEC spread on an American Athletic Conference football game.
In the case of LSU hosting Georgia, perhaps they should go with a Pac-12 spread – as in expecting the Oregon Ducks to play around with Cal for 2 quarters before running away.
Watch as superior numbers from UGA wear down a brave effort from LSU this weekend. I’m thinking the Dawgs will win by 10+ points and cover the spread. If the line dips to (-7) for the favorite, increase the units 2-fold!