ATLANTA — Georgia football failed to pass the test that red-hot LSU presented in the SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday night.
The final scorecard read 37-10, and the contest was filled with red marks from the opening drive when the first play from scrimmage was a dropped pass deep down the field.
The Bulldogs (11-2) are resigned to await their fate, a Sugar Bowl bid to face Baylor most likely forthcoming if Georgia remains the highest ranked SEC team not in the College Football Playoff. The CFP rankings will start to come out at noon.
The Bulldogs’ proud defense, which led the league in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and pass efficiency defense in the regular season, was shredded.
LSU’s record-breaking offense, fresh off scoring more points in the regular season than any SEC team before, rolled up 481 total yards to Georgia’s 286.
The Tigers cruised to a 17-3 halftime lead and never looked back.
Here’s one perspective on how Georgia graded:
Fromm hung in the pocket and took some shots, his 20-of-42 passing line somewhat misleading on account of at least five or six dropped passes. Fromm’s receiver got beat to position by a cornerback on a back shoulder throw, resulting in one of Fromm’s 2 interceptions. Fromm had a well-placed throw into a tight window dropped in the end zone. The junior quarterback misfired on a couple of throws, too, the timing clearly off.
Running backs (C)
Georgia couldn’t get anything going on the ground without D’Andre Swift available to run between the tackles. Swift said he was still dealing with a shoulder injury, and he was limited to just five touches, none beyond the first series of the third quarter. Brian Herrien had 8 carries for a team-high 24 yards as the Bulldogs had a season-low 61 yards rushing. James Cook had 5 carries for 23 yards and was a bright spot.
It was a depleted group, but early drops robbed the team of much-needed momentum and what would have been confidence. George Pickens only played one half, but he had 4 catches for 54 yards and a touchdown after dropping the first ball thrown to him. Demetris Robertson had 4 catches for 52 yards. Tyler Simmons had 3 catches for 40 yards.
Offensive line (C)
The once-vaunted ‘Great Wall’ was no more than average against an LSU defensive line that has not been as formidable as last season. Isaiah Wilson got beat by a spin move for a sack, and Andrew Thomas failed to recognize an outside safety blitz that led to a sack and Fromm hobbled by an ankle injury. It was challenging playing from behind for UGA, but dominant offensive line play would have helped.
Defensive line (B)
If you sense a theme here, it’s that an average night from the No. 4-ranked team in the nation will get a team beat by this LSU squad handily. The Georgia defensive line did a decent job getting Joe Burrow flushed from the pocket and on the run, but they were unable to finish the job on a few would-be sacks and pressures. Devonte Wyatt overcame an injury and had four tackles and one of the team’s two sacks. Jordan Davis played through a bad ankle and recorded the other sack.
The linebackers were strong in run support, but there were some missed tackles and some receivers that got loose in the intermediate range. Monty Rice had five tackles on a night where Georgia used exotic defensive packages filled with extra defensive backs and players such as Tyrique Stevenson and Lewis Cine walked up into rover positions.
Disappointing night for Georgia’s playmakers on the back end, as safety J.R. Reed positioned himself for an interception in the end zone but saw the ball sail by for a touchdown. Richard LeCounte and Reed each had six tackles against LSU’s dynamic pass game. Stevenson had four tackles, all in the first half, before getting carted off early in the third quarter.
Special teams (D)
It was a D for disappointment, as the normally reliable Rodrigo Blankenship was in the same boat as many teammates, having a tough night. Blankenship missed field goals of 52 and 37 yards, while making a 39-yarder. Punter Jake Camarda averaged 48.8 yards on his four punts, dropping one inside the LSU 20 with two others going for touchbacks.
As much as some will clamor for a failing grade, it would be irresponsible not to recognize the unprecedented offense Georgia was facing. Quarterback Joe Burrow was fabulous with his ability to scramble, keep his eyes up and make pinpoint throws downfield to explosive receivers running open. LSU’s offense is not only the best in the nation, it’s arguably the best in modern-era history, setting the SEC record for most points scored with a Heisman Trophy frontrunner at quarterback. UGA has issues, but it wasn’t play calling or scheme, so much as it was execution. Kirby Smart needs better players, particularly at the offensive skill positions, and he needs them now.