LSU / SEC Week 5 Picks

I’m having a really hard time coming up with a rationale to pick No. 4 LSU to beat No. 15.5 Georgia on Saturday. I hope the Tigers win; I think the Tigers can win, but rational analysis doesn’t support it.

In broad terms, Georgia has a decent passing offense (42nd nationally), a bad rushing offense (90th), a decent rush defense (42nd) and a bad pass defense (90th). Odd symmetry of 42nd and 90th rankings aside, the lack of balance or dominance in any area leaves the Bulldogs vulnerable.

But the broad terms are even worse for LSU, which has a poor rushing offense (74th), a bad passing offense (90th – again!), a poor rushing defense (65th) and a decent pass defense (48th). The Tigers are more balanced … but sit on the lower end of the scale across the board.

And Georgia has played a significantly harder schedule to date. SEC games with South Carolina and Arkansas and out-of-conference games against Oklahoma State and Arizona State. Not a blockbuster set of opponents, but much tougher than Vandy and Mississippi State in the SEC and Washington and USL out of conference. Weaker schedule, worse performance in offensive and defensive yards does not inspire a lot of confidence in LSU.

Throw in a home-field advantage and the motivation to knock off a team Georgia doesn’t like very much that’s ranked No. 4 and you have to like the Dawgs’ chances. Maybe they’ll even wear black.

So it’s tough to pick LSU to win, but I can offer a winning scenario.

Obviously the Tigers’ biggest problem is the offense. Defense is a concern, but the offense is just plain missing and on the ground has regressed since the start of the season. Keiland Williams’ per-carry averaged has dropped from 7.2ish yards against Washington and Vandy to 4.3 against USL and then 2.2 against MSU. Charles Scott’s best game was a 5.25 average against USL, and he managed just 2.5 per carry against MSU. But then there’s Russell Shepard, who leads the team in yards-per-carry at 6.7 in limited use (11 carries in three games). Hmm.

Jordan Jefferson had his best game of his career against MSU, going 15 for 28 for 233 yards and two touchdowns. There was a key difference in his play last weekend that I’ll get to in a moment.

There’s a blueprint here for offensive success against Georgia, and I hope it’s what we see.

On the ground: LSU has nothing when it runs at the line. What’s the cause? I don’t know. But you’re not going to correct it against Georgia. Here we need Russell Shepard, and lots of him. Let him run the “Wild Tiger” a bunch; put him in the backfield with Jefferson at quarterback; put him in as a wideout in motion. Straight-up running isn’t working for LSU, so spread the defense and set up a bunch of ways to attack with the run.

In the air: In the first three games of the year, Jefferson was missing guys badly downfield. The throws he was making were mostly fly routes and others where he was trying to hit receivers in vertical stride. He missed. But in the MSU game, Jefferson’s long throws were post routes where receivers could get to the ball with horizontal movement, which took the pin-point pressure off of Jefferson. And it worked. Georgia’s secondary is very vulnerable; we just need Jefferson to connect. What we saw in the MSU gameplan was a much better idea and I hope we stick to it.

Defensively, the key is shutting down A.J. Green, who has caught 37% of Georgia’s passes and accounts for 30% of the Dawgs’ total offense for the season. The solution – Patrick Peterson. It hasn’t gone unnoticed by game announcers that teams try their best to not throw at Peterson. It’s hard to see what a guy is doing when the play doesn’t come to him, but I have to assume Peterson is throwing down some pretty effective coverage. If he can shut down Green without a lot of help, that would be huge for the Tigers.

The problem is that Georgia has the potential for a pretty strong running game. Focus too much on shutting down the Ginger Ninja’s passing and you can expose yourself to the run. So I think LSU is going to have to bet on the secondary to clamp down enough on its own to keep pressure on Cox and check the run. We need Georgia to rely on the pass, and we need them to fail more than they succeed.

So I think we can win this game. And what the hell, I’ll be a homer.

LSU 30 – 27

Elsewhere in the SEC:

Auburn at Tennessee. A pretty intriguing game for one featuring two teams on the mend. There’s a clear showdown here – the high-powered offense of Gus Malzahn against the supposedly-awesome defense of the Tennessee coach’s grandfather. Or something. It’s a very old school/new school thing, as Monte Kiffin began his career with the old Decatur Staleys of the NFL and Malzahn made his name creating an explosive new offensive strategy at the middle school level in Kansas. Or something. I’m going with Auburn here because, quite frankly, they seem to have one hell of an offense. And Tennessee doesn’t have an offense to match them and take advantage of the War Eagles’ somewhat-weak defense.

Auburn 45 – 31

No. 3 Alabama at Kentucky. The ‘Cats lost to Florida by 34 at home. And Bama appears to be at least as good as Florida. Barring a total collapse by the Tide, which isn’t Fonzie’s style, this one won’t be close.

Alabama 52 – 6

No. 18 Ole Miss at Vanderbilt. No, Ole Miss is not living up to the enormous hype. But Vandy isn’t living up to their little bit of hype, either. So default to normal conditions. Wouldn’t be a shock to see Vandy win, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Rebels 16 – 10

Georgia Tech at Mississippi State. This will be a good test to see if Tech’s option rush offense can stand up over time. The Bulldogs’ rush defense is 8th in the SEC but a middle-of-the-road 56th nationally at 128 yards a game. But that includes 390 rush yards given up to Auburn. Tech has hit 300 yards rushing in three of their four games, and even with the really bad day against Miami averages 262. I think Tech gets the job done.

Yellow Jackets 27 – 24

Arkansas vs Texas A&M. Ah, the old Southwest Conference showdown. And Texas A&M is 3-0 and No. 1 in the nation in total offense. But they’ve played New Mexico, Utah State and UAB. And against that weak start they’re still giving up 351 yards per game. Arkansas had a really potent offense until they played Alabama. The Hogs dropped 485 yards on Georgia, so I’m going with their offense prevailing over the weak defense of A&M.

Arkansas 48 – 41

South Carolina State at South Carolina. The sole patsy game on the schedule this week. Good.

Cocks 38 – 13

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One Response to “LSU / SEC Week 5 Picks”

  1. TCL says:

    Yesterday I picked LSU 30-28 on much the same analysis. Also everything else, except Miss State for an all-SEC ticket.

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