No. 6 LSU will travel to No. 9 Georgia for a showdown Between the Hedges with national title implications on Saturday.
Having already taken on Clemson and South Carolina, the Bulldogs face off against its third top-10 opponent in just its first four games. Georgia lost to Clemson to open the year, but will be looking to launch back into the BCS picture with a big-time win over another group of Tigers.
Coach Les Miles’ squad has had a far easier path to a currently perfect 4-0 record, but has won each contest in more than convincing fashion. The Mad Hatter and his vastly improved quarterback, Zach Metterber, helped to engineer a win over Auburn last weekend in the team’s first conference game of the season.
Strolling into Athens and leaving with a victory is something South Carolina couldn’t manage to do, and it won’t be easy for LSU to do either. Not with an offense led by record-setting passer Aaron Murray. The senior understands that, despite the team’s loss to Clemson, he can still lead the Dawgs to a national title, but he has to beat LSU. He will be leaning on his two-headed superstar running back tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall to break through the Tigers’ rebuilt defensive line.
Star LSU big men Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery are now playing on Sundays, as are linebacker Kevin Minter and defensive back Eric Reid. They have been replaced by Lamin Barrow at linebacker, Micah Eugene and Jalen Mills at defensive back, and finally Ego Ferguson on the line.
Georgia also lost a number of elite players to the NFL, including Bacarri Rambo, Alec Ogletree and Jarvis Jones. Linebackers Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera, as well as defensive linemen Leonard Floyd and Sterling Bailey, will all have their work cut out for them against LSU’s ever-potent rushing attack. True sophomore Jeremy Hill, now up to full speed following a one-game suspension due to offseason charges of simple battery, tallied a career-high 184 yards on 25 carries against Auburn – and he’s not slowing down anytime soon.
Everyone expected LSU to boast a dominant rushing attack. The true story behind the team’s 4-0 start, however, has been the stellar play of Mettenberger. The senior was actually beaten out for the starting role at Georgia by none other than Murray several years ago, and then dismissed from the Bulldogs program altogether. He was thus forced to transfer to a junior college before making his way back into the SEC.
He disappointed in 2012, but first year offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has simply worked wonders. The 6-foot-5, 235-pounder has already passed for 1,026 yards, 10 touchdowns and only one interception. It has been a sparkling start to the season.
Can coach Mark Richt and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham get their players ready to take on yet another elite offensive group? The Bulldogs struggled in giving up 38 points against Clemson to open the year at 0-1. LSU’s offense is not quite that prolific, but the potential is there, especially with the development of wide receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry.
If, however, Georgia’s defense cannot stop Mettenberger and Co., Murray has plenty of firepower surrounding him.
It is a rare day that we talk about an SEC showdown and foresee a potential shootout, but a high-scoring affair may be the only likely outcome the way these two elite programs are currently put together.
Should the points start coming in bunches, does Georgia’s explosive unit and home field advantage give the Bulldogs an edge on Saturday? Or will Mettenberger continue to shine, despite the hostile environment?
What if these extremely talented defenses come ready to play, and we have ourselves an old-fashioned, SEC slugfest? Both of these teams have the running backs to grind out a win, but which will be able to in Athens?
We don’t know the answers to these questions, but perhaps you do. It’s time to settle it.