This game looked destined to be a top-five matchup, but the Tigers slipped last week against Florida and fell outside the top-10. For Georgia, it’s the first of four straight games against ranked opponents and in one of the toughest environments in college football, Death Valley.
The Dawgs are coming off their best season in nearly 40 years, including their first Rose Bowl Game win in 75 years, and a National Championship appearance. They’ve carried that momentum over into 2018 with a 6-0 start and an average margin of victory of nearly 30 points. Sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm continues to grow and is now one of the best QBs in the country. Fromm is completing 72.8 percent of his passes for 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns. Sophomore D’Andre Swift was expected to be the lead back for Georgia, and while he’s played well (59 carries, 290 yards, four touchdowns), junior Elijah Holyfield, the son of former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, leads the Dawgs with 432 yards and three scores. The receiver duo of Mecole Hardman and Riley Ridley have nearly identical stat lines, 22 catches and four touchdowns.
On defense, Georgia was expected to take a step back in 2018 but that isn’t the case. The Dawgs are tops defensively in the SEC, allowing just 283 yards per game. They rank second nationally by giving up 13 points per game, behind just Mississippi State (12.7). Senior linebacker D’Andre Walker has stepped up in the place of graduated and drafted players like Roquan Smith and Lorenzo Carter by leading the team with five tackles for loss and four sacks, with an additional eight quarterback hurries. Senior cornerback DeAndre Baker is one of the best defensive backs in the country and has lived up to his billing this year with two interceptions and six pass breakups. As a unit, the Dawgs are sixth in the country team passing efficiency defense.
LSU started the season with two of the best wins of the year. The Tigers beat No. 8 Miami, 33-17, week one, then defeated No. 7 Auburn on a game-winning field goal, 22-21, in week three. Junior transfer quarterback Joe Burrow threw his first two interceptions of the season in a 27-19 loss to Florida last week. Burrow has been the leader at QB who the Tigers have been missing over the last few years, tossing for 1,214 yards and six touchdowns in six games. Senior running back Nick Brossette has stepped up after sitting behind Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice the last three years. Brossette had 46 carries over the previous three years, but has adjusted into the lead role well with 118 carries for 576 yards and eight touchdowns this year. Sophomore Justin Jefferson leads LSU in receiving with 22 catches this year, but senior tight end Foster Moreau is a sleeping giant.
The Tiger defense is stocked with future NFL talent. Preseason All-American linebacker Devin White leads the team with 53 tackles and is tied for the team lead with safety Grant Delpit with 6.5 tackles for loss. Delpit has become one of the top defensive players in the SEC and leads the team with three interceptions, three sacks, six passes defended and four quarterback hurries. Fellow defensive back and preseason All-American corner Greedy Williams has two interceptions. As a team, LSU has picked off eight passes and rank 17th in the country in team passing efficiency defense. The Tigers have held opponents to 17 points per game, which ranks 15th in the country.
This will be by far Georgia’s toughest test to date. The same goes for LSU, despite playing two other top-10 teams this season. This game looks like it could be a defensive battle, but if the Bulldogs offense gets rolling, they’re tough to stop. LSU isn’t built to come from behind, so an early lead will bode well for Georgia. If the Tigers want to come away with the win, they’ll need to keep it a low-scoring affair by controlling the clock and running the ball.