Game of the day: Louisiana State vs. Georgia


No. 3 Louisana State Tigers (10-1) vs. No. 13 Georgia Bulldogs (9-2)

The line: Oddsmakers have the Tigers favored by 1 ½ points. LSU is 5-4-1 ATS and 2-0-1 ATS on turf. The Bulldogs are 5-6 ATS.

The total: The books have the total set at 40. LSU is 5-5 and UGA is 5-5-1 over/under.

Unexpected fate

Many thought that LSU was the worst positioned team in the conference, but the Tigers come into this evening’s SEC championship game looking to win and secure their place in the Sugar Bowl. The Tigers are the sentimental favorites after Katrina destroyed Louisiana`s Superdome, forcing the game`s move from New Orleans to Atlanta.

In a year when most people in Louisiana lost everything, the LSU Fighting Tigers have managed to do the opposite on the gridiron.

"I really feel like this team has achieved a lot considering the start of the season and the unusual nature of the state of Louisiana," said Miles, who will be facing the Bulldogs for the first time. "We feel very fortunate to be in position to achieve a great majority of our goals and to be playing for a championship."

Since losing their second game of the season, LSU has since reeled off nine straight wins, including four of those wins in games won by fewer than four points, situating themselves behind only USC and Texas in the USA Today/ESPN rankings.

The game marks the third time in five years that LSU will play for the SEC banner and the first time since 2003.

Accustomed to tight games

Despite only three loses between them, both clubs have played a majority of their games close in the ultra competitive SEC schedule. Going into this weekend’s action, the SEC featured five of the top 17 schools in the country.

The difference in records between LSU and UGA is the results of close games.

Front running LSU played in six games that were decided by four points or fewer. The Tigers` national ranking can be attributed to their incredible knack for winning the close games against tough opponents. In those six games, the Fighting Tigers went 5-1, including wins over conference foes and top-25 schools Florida (17), Alabama (15) and Auburn (10), their only setback at the hands of the underachieving Tennessee Volunteers (30-27).

However, the Georgia schedule shows much different results. The Bulldogs went only 2-2 in games decided by less than a touchdown. They knocked off South Carolina and Georgia Tech but fell to conference rivals Florida and Arkansas.

On the season, the Bulldogs average margin of victory was a healthy 17.7 points, nearly identical to the 18.1 average margin posted by the Tigers.

Outlook

If Georgia is to pull off the upset, they’ll look to QB D.J. Shockley to get the job done. Shockley put together a solid senior season, his first as a starter, throwing for 19 touchdonws, only 5 interceptions and over 2,200 yards.

LSU counters with JaMarcus Russell under center. Russell, a huge 6-foot-five, 248-pound presence in the pocket, put together a solid sophomore season, leading the Tigers offense with 15 TDs. Russell shined brightest when the chips were down late in the season. Over LSU’s final five games, he threw for 1,032 yards, 11 TDs and only two picks. He also threw for at least one touchdown in each of his last nine games.

When Russell is not working over defensive backs through the air, he’s mixing up the attack with UGA ground game. Starting running back Joseph Addai set career highs in rushing (796 yards) and touchdowns (8), while backup Justin Vincent carried 109 times for 494 yards and five TDs.

The Tigers ‘D’ ranks in the top five nationwide in four major categories.

The talk

“UGA has something to prove as they seek revenge on LSU from the thrashing they got two years ago in the SEC championship,” says Covers.com forum poster gamblinjojo. “Plus this time the dawgs have D.J. Shockley who I know has looked a little sluggish since his return from injury but he`ll still be a handful for LSU`s ‘D’ with his ability to scramble. The Dawgs +1 ½ is the way to roll! Take UGA straight up 17-14.”

“I think LSU has one of the best D lines in the country and this game will be won on defense,” says Cover.com forum poster biggslick. “I follow the SEC more than any other conference and LSU just has better atheletes period. Gotta go with the Bayou Bengals in this one.”

The Tigers lead the all-time series, 14-10-1.

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