Who’ll win the big showdown? Rockytop.com analysts Jeffery Stewart and Randy Moore offer their perspectives in this week’s SEC Picks. Each went 3-2 on last week’s predictions. Stewart missed on Georgia’s defeat of Georgia Tech and Mississippi State’s defeat of Ole Miss. Moore missed on MSU vs. Ole Miss and on Florida vs. Florida State. For the season Moore stands 66-18, Stewart 64-20.
Here are their takes on the SEC Championship Game:
I’m a firm believer in momentum, and LSU has plenty. The Tigers have won nine games in a row since blowing a 21-0 lead with a second-half collapse against Tennessee on Sept. 26.
By comparison, Georgia has lost two of its last four games. There were extenuating circumstances, however. The Dawgs fell to Florida because star
quarterback D.J. Shockley was sidelined and tumbled the next week to Auburn on a fourth-down defensive lapse in the final minutes.
I’m also a firm believer in mobile quarterbacks. Shockley is the SEC’s Most Valuable Player in my book because he can beat you with his arm or his feet. Despite missing one game, he passed for more than 2200 yards and ran for nearly 300 more. The Dawgs never would’ve lost to Florida if he’d been available and they might not have lost to Auburn the following week if he’d been 100 percent healthy.
Of course, LSU’s JaMarcus Russell is a fairly mobile quarterback in his own right. Although he’s more apt to stay in the pocket than Shockley, Russell is quite capable of avoiding the rush and occasionally scrambling for positive yardage.
The fact the game is being played in the Georgia Dome certainly favors the Dawgs, even though LSU will have a large contingent of fans in attendance.
I look for a fiercely contested, entertaining game that comes down to the final possession. Ultimately, I think Shockley will find a way to pull it out. My pick: Georgia 27, LSU 24.
LSU and Georgia don’t meet regularly in the SEC’s rotating schedule, nonetheless, this is the fourth meeting between these teams in the last three years. LSU beat Georgia twice in 2003, including a 34-13 thumping in the Conference title game, but the Bulldogs bounced back in 2004 to wallop the Tigers 45-16 at Athens.
Unlike those meetings this one figures to be close and highly competitive. The Bulldogs will have a slight home field advantage playing in their home state, but LSU won SEC titles in the Georgia Dome in both 2001 and 2003.
LSU (10-1) has won the close games this season, going 4-1 in contests decided by four or fewer points. The Bulldogs (9-2) are 3-2 in games of that nature.
In other words: there’s really not much difference in the relative strengths of these teams, and that’s reflected by the oddsmakers who have rated this game a virtual toss up.
However, I like LSU because it has momentum and the defense is playing better. The Tigers have a nine-game winning streak while Georgia has lost two of its last four games. The Tigers have allowed only four touchdowns over the last five games and they have the defensive front to shut down Georgia’s running game while keeping D.J. Shockley in the pocket where he’s less of a running threat.
I also believe the Tigers have the best balance in the SEC with an offense that can hurt you through the air and on the ground. If LSU’s JaMarcus Russell isn’t the best QB in the SEC, he’s tied with Jay Cutler for those honors and he’s just a sophomore. LSU also has the receivers to hurt Georgia’s secondary, especially Bulldog safety Greg Blue who can be forced into man coverage via spread formations.
That’s why I’m taking the Tigers to prevail. LSU 23, Georgia 20.