Georgia looks to pull a shocker on top-ranked LSU
Georgia knows just about everyone is looking past this game,
figuring it’s nothing more than a mere inconvenience for top-ranked
LSU on the way to playing for the national championship.
The Bulldogs would love to pull a shocker.
No. 12 Georgia (10-2) is on quite a roll heading into next
Saturday’s Southeastern Conference championship, winning 10
straight since starting the season with losses to Boise State and
Still, outside of those wearing red and black, no one gives the
Bulldogs much of a chance against the mighty Tigers (12-0).
That’s OK with defensive back (and occasional running back)
”We’ve been an underdog ever since those two games we lost,”
he said. ”We’re used to it. We believe in ourselves. Even when no
one else believed, we still believed. Even though we’re an underdog
now, we keep believing.”
A big reason the Bulldogs have yet to garner a lot of national
attention, even while winning week after week, is their schedule.
Georgia played two teams still ranked in The Associated Press Top
25 – and lost to them both. By a quirk of the rotation, they didn’t
have to play any of the top teams in the SEC West and benefitted
from a weak year in the East, especially from traditional power
LSU, on the other hand, has knocked off three of the top eight
teams in The Associated Press rankings – No. 2 Alabama, No. 6
Arkansas and No. 8 Oregon – as well as No. 22 West Virginia.
Tigers coach Les Miles figures that big-game experience should
be a huge help to his team in Atlanta.
”I remember being a little dead getting off the plane in West
Virginia,” Miles said Sunday. ”But we walked into the stadium,
and it was just alive. It was a big-time environment, a wonderful
night. Our guys just come to life. To me, we’re used to playing in
that environment, used to being on the big stages. Our guys
translate the glare of the lights to making plays in the
Georgia coach Mark Richt was on the hot seat early in the
season, especially coming off his program’s first losing record
since 1996. But the Bulldogs have bounced back with their longest
winning streak within a season since 1982.
Quarterback Aaron Murray has put up huge numbers, setting a
school record for touchdowns passes (32). The 3-4 defense blossomed
in its second year under coordinator Todd Granthan, ranking among
the nation’s best against the run.
”It’s been fun to turn it around and see these players and
these coaches enjoy the fruits of all their labor,” Richt said.
”It was probably a whole lot more difficult for the players than
it was for the coaches. We’re not out and about every day like the
players who have to go to class .They probably got to hear it more
than we do, so I’ve got a lot of respect for the players and how
they handled everything. They really held everything together. It
was fun to watch that.”
Freshman Isaiah Crowell, who didn’t play in a 31-17 victory over
Georgia Tech because of an injured left ankle, should be back at
practice Monday, according to Richt. The Bulldogs managed to beat
their state rival by improvising in the backfield, using both Smith
and another defensive back, Brandon Boykin, on the offensive side.
But they expect to have their top rusher against LSU.
Crowell has gained 832 yards in his debut season despite
injuries and a couple of disciplinary issues.
”Unless there’s a setback,” Richt said, ”I think he will play
in the game.”
The Bulldogs also are holding out hope that Crowell’s backup
much of the season, Richard Samuel, will be able to play after
undergoing surgery on his left ankle about a month ago. But he’s
not expected to practice Monday, and his return is more of a
On the defensive side, Georgia will have its work cut out
slowing an LSU team that is loaded at running back and can rip off
points in lightning-quick spurts. Last Friday, the Tigers trailed
Arkansas 14-0 early on but romped to a 41-17 victory.
Georgia counters with playmakers of its own, including outside
linebacker Jarvis Jones (third in the nation with 13.5 sacks),
safety Bacarri Rambo (second nationally with seven interceptions)
and a pair of massive nose tackles, 351-pound John Jenkins and
350-pounder Kwame Geathers. They’ve held up well so far, but this
will be by far their biggest test.
”I know they’re a talented team. I know they’re physical. I
know they’ve got great athletes,” Grantham said. ”I’m excited
about the opportunity. I’m proud of our players.”
So is Richt, who expects his team to approach this game like it
has the last 10.
”When we were 0-2, a lot of people in our (athletic) building
were wanting to say, `Hey, we can go 10 in a row, we can go 10 in a
row,”’ the head coach said. ”You can’t go 10 in a row unless you
get one in a row. That kind of became our war cry.”
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