The SEC Championship Game features the league’s top offense against the top defense in a classic contrast of styles.
The strength-on-strength matchup has made for some fascinating pregame analyzation leading up to the 4 p.m. battle on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Veteran LSU beat writer Glenn Guilbeau of the USA Today network took some time to provide some insight on the Bayou Bengals.
Guilbeau, who should be followed on Twitter by clicking this link, answered these 5 questions about the Tigers:
1. LSU’s offense has done some amazing things, but which stat or accomplishment has been the most surprising to you?
ANSWER: One of the records that quarterback Joe Burrow broke and one that wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase is about to break have been around since the 1990s and were set by teams that helped revolutionize offense in the SEC – Hal Mumme at Kentucky and the father of the modern passing attack in the SEC – Steve Spurrier.
Burrow last week broke the record for passing yards in a season, which was 4,275 by Kentucky’s Tim Couch in 1998. Burrow has 4,366. And Chase is one touchdown away from tying the SEC record for touchdown receptions in a season, which is 18 and set by Florida WR Reidel Anthony in 1996.
Burrow is also on the verge of breaking the NCAA record for completion percentage, which has been held by Texas QB Colt McCoy since 2008 at .767. Burrow is at .783 on 314-of-401 passing.
Another amazing record is Burrow’s school touchdown passes mark for a game. He threw six against Vanderbilt in a 66-38 win on Sept. 21. The previous record was five by Zach Mettenberger against UAB in 2013. But what’s interesting is and what shows how far LSU has come in the passing game is the fact that LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson threw just one more TD pass than Burrow at Vanderbilt through 13 starts and 118-of-209 passing for 1,411 yards in the 2010 season.
2. Ed Orgeron was once considered on the so-called “Hot Seat” at LSU, when did that change, and just how secure is he now?
ANSWER: Orgeron was only on the “hot seat” briefly in his first full season – 2017 – because he lost at home to Troy, 24-21. Since the Tigers were ranked No. 25 and were 20-point favorites, it went down as one of the worst losses in LSU history. Because the Tigers had also just lost, 37-7, at unranked Mississippi State two weeks before, the Orgeron hire looked like a mistake.
He quickly rallied, though, and upset No. 21 Florida at The Swamp, 17-16, to cool the hot seat, then knocked off No. 10 Auburn, 27-23, at home after trailing 20-0 in the second quarter to exit the hot seat for good. His only loss the rest of that regular season was 24-10 to No. 1 Alabama before falling to Notre Dame in the final seconds in the Citrus Bowl to finish 9-4.
He was 10-3 last year with two close losses and is 12-0 now. I would say he is very secure. Yes, he loses Burrow, but he had the No. 3 class in 2019 and has the No. 1 class now. That’s the best two back-to-back classes LSU will have since Saban had a No. 1 and a No. 2 in 2003 and 2004, which provided Les Miles with nearly 30 players for the 2007 national title.
3. The Tigers defense looked dominant against Texas A&M, but are there still some weaknesses? What or where are they?
ANSWER: LSU’s defense has been inconsistent throughout this season. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has often looked very much figured out in his fourth season. At times, the Tigers have been out of alignment and off balance. Often the scheme has been bad, and LSU has not been able to adjust. The middle of the field is often open for business. The secondary has been great at times, but Aranda strangely had it in man-to-man late in the Alabama game when he should have been in prevent (defense).
The line is solid, not great. The linebackers have also been solid with Jacob Phillips and K’Lavon Chaisson, but they miss Michael Divinity Jr., who has to miss 50 percent of LSU’s games because of more than four positive drug tests for marijuana. He may get to play if LSU reaches the national title game. The Tigers did play their best defensive game of the season against A&M and had its best pass rush.
4. This is LSU’s first appearance in the SEC Championship Game since 2011 — how many more appearances in the SEC Championship Game would you predict for the Bayou Bengals over the next 5 years, and why?
ANSWER: Because of Orgeron’s recruiting, particularly a likely upgrade in quarterback signees in 2021 and beyond, I predict LSU will be back in this game soon. I would say 2022 or 2023. His staff is also very good, particularly offensive line coach James Cregg, who previously was in the NFL, and secondary coach Bill Busch, in addition to pass game coordinator Joe Brady – if they can keep him.
5. The SEC Championship Game has been broken down in several different ways, so now it’s your chance, what are your three keys to the game?
ANSWER: Georgia has the cornerbacks to cover LSU man-to-man. No one has been able to cover Chase all season. If Eric Stokes can do that and D.J. Daniel and Tyson Campbell and Mark Webb or Tyrique Stevenson can handle Justin Jefferson and Terrace Marshall Jr. in single coverage, it could get interesting. Solid man-to-man coverage could mean a good pass rush, and Burrow has rarely had to deal with that. He has rarely been frustrated this season. If this happens, and LSU is only in the teens in the third quarter, look out. After that, will Georgia have an answer for Burrow running, which he is very good at? Will they have an answer for tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire?
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