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Perry McIntyre / UGA Sports
Georgia safety Richard LeCounte has evolved into a playmaker, forcing fumbles in each of the past two games.

7 key Georgia football players against LSU in SEC Championship Game

ATHENS — Closely matched games have a tendency to come down to four or five plays, moments when a given team takes or is handed momentum.

Turnovers, special teams plays and explosive plays are all capable of triggering emotional swings and changing a team’s game plan or preferred personnel in a flash.

Georgia and LSU have battled their way to the SEC Championship Game by handling those moments and overcoming obstacles.

The No. 4-ranked Bulldogs (11-1) are a touchdown underdog to the No. 2-ranked Tigers (12-0) and figure to need their “A” Game to pull off the upset.

Here are seven Georgia players that will be key against the Tigers.

1. Rodrigo Blankenship

Every point will count, every kickoff will count, and the Bulldogs will be relying on their all-time leading scorer to come through in the clutch. Blankenship’s third quarter miss against Alabama in last year’s SEC title game was an opportunity for Georgia to make that a three score game. This time, UGA may need Blankenship to salvage stalled drives and connect from long distance, as well as hit the pressure-packed kicks.

2. Jake Fromm

It’s so obvious, but so true, Georgia relies on Fromm to do so much more than complete passes. The junior must change plays at the line of scrimmage, adjust protections and manage the huddle in the midst of chaos and emotion. Fromm has avoided interceptions in 11 of 12 games this season, but against LSU, he’ll also need to tuck and run for the offense to be at its best.

3. Richard LeCounte

This junior playmaking safety has been a ball hawk of late, forcing fumbles in each of the past two games and picking off a pass against Missouri in a 27-0 win on Nov. 9. LeCounte has also developed into the most fierce hitter in the secondary and an excellent open-field tackler. He’ll be relied on to handle speedy receivers as well as powerful runner Clyde Edwards-Helaire in one-on-one open-field tackling matchups.

4. D’Andre Swift

It has been said and written at each turn that Swift is UGA’s X-factor, and that is because he is the most explosive skill position player on the team. Swift can run heavy or fast, depending on the situation. Swift  has shown home run speed once in the open field, but his sharp cutting is what separates him from other backs. Bumps and bruises have slowed the junior, but this will be a legacy game and an opportunity for Swift to take a place alongside recent greats Todd Gurley, Sony Michel and Nick Chubb.

5. Monty Rice

The heart and soul of the Georgia defense and designated tough guy, Rice is going to need to get to Edwards-Helaire before the LSU running back can get momentum. Rice has proven adept at stepping into gaps, but his pass coverage skills will be tested on first and second down. Young Nakobe Dean often comes on the field on third downs, but the Tigers are a threat to score on every play, and Rice will need to be on top of his game in pass coverage as well as run stoppage.

6. Tyler Simmons

Simmons was limited by a shoulder brace most of the season, but he has had it off the past few games and evolved into Georgia’s leading receiver over the past two games. The senior has the speed to get open and make things happen, and he’s showing consistency with his hands. Perhaps most importantly, Fromm trusts Simmons to be where he’s supposed to be and carry out his assignments. It has been a tough year for the UGA receivers, but they have an opportunity for redemption on Saturday.

7. Trey Hill

Hill was roughed up at center and his snaps were late in Georgia’s only loss to South Carolina, and that can’t happen again. In truth, it’s going to take Georgia’s best collective effort on both sides of the line of scrimmage to win this football game. The last time these teams met, LSU won both sides of the line of scrimmage and was the stronger, tougher and more well-drilled team. The Bulldogs have it all on the line, quite literally, in Atlanta.

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