SEC Championship Game – LSU vs. UGA

Published on Dec. 2 at 8:25 p.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

The top-ranked LSU Tigers will try to stay unbeaten Saturday afternoon at the Ga. Dome in Atlanta where they will take on Georgia in the SEC Championship Game at 4:00 p.m. Eastern on CBS.

As of Friday night, most betting shops had LSU (12-0 straight up, 9-3 against the spread) installed as a 13 ½-point favorite with a total of 46 ½. The Bulldogs are plus-450 on the money line (risk $100 to win $450).

Mark Richt’s team won the SEC East for the first time since 2005 thanks to 10 consecutive wins following a 0-2 start. The season started for UGA at this venue where Boise St. rolled to a 35-21 win as a three-point ‘chalk.’

But the Dawgs were back in Atlanta last weekend, cruising to a 31-17 win over Ga. Tech as five-point road favorites. UGA sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray threw for 252 yards and four touchdowns.

For the season, Murray has connected on 61.0 percent of his throws for 2,698 yards with a 32/10 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Murray’s favorite target has been former Tampa Plant High School teammate Orson Charles, who is one of the SEC’s best tight ends with 40 receptions for 530 yards and five TDs.

Georgia will need to have offensive balance to have a chance at pulling the upset, but its leading rusher Isaiah Crowell has barely touched the field the last two weeks. The freshman from Columbus sprained his ankle in the first quarter of a 19-10 home win over Kentucky two weeks ago. He sat out in the win over the Yellow Jackets, but he’s expected to be in the starting lineup Saturday afternoon.

With the exception of its 9-6 win at Alabama in overtime, LSU has won all of its games by 13 points or more. The Tigers are 5-1 against the spread in their last six double-digit ‘chalk’ situations. The lone non-cover was when they were laying 42 points to Western Kentucky the week after their emotional win in Tuscaloosa.

In last Friday afternoon’s showdown against Arkansas in Baton Rouge, Les Miles’s team fell behind by a 14-0 score in the first quarter. However, thanks to the play of QB Jordan Jefferson, WR Rueben Randle and the running combination of Kenny Hilliard and Michael Ford, not to mention a 92-yard punt return for a TD by Tyrann Mathieu, LSU scored 21 unanswered points.

Bobby Petrino’s squad pulled to within 21-17 with a field goal midway through the third quarter, but LSU would finish the game on a 20-0 run to collect a 41-17 victory as a 10 ½-point home ‘chalk.’ Hilliard rushed for a team-high 102 yards and Ford had 96 rushing yards on just 11 carries.

Jefferson has resumed his duties as the starting QB in the last three games after Jarrett Lee filled in admirably in September and October. He brings a running dimension to the offense that Lee, a pure pocket passer, didn’t bring to the table. And Jefferson’s throwing looked sharp against the Razorbacks.

I’ve heard some talk this week that LSU might be looking ahead to facing Alabama in the BCS Championship Game and, therefore, won’t have anything to play for against the Bulldogs. But I don’t believe there’s any validity to that notion.

I’ve been to more than a half-dozen SEC title games and the atmosphere is absolutely electric. It’s inconceivable for college football players to not be fired up to play in this type of environment.

Also, I don’t believe bettors should think of this as a road game for LSU because UGA is only 66 miles from its campus. The Tigers are given just as many tickets and they travel well, so the Bulldogs won’t have a considerable advantage in terms of the crowd.

Georgia hasn’t been a double-digit underdog since facing the 2009 Gators in Jacksonville. On that day, UF spanked the Dawgs 41-17 as a 14 1/2-point favorite. In two previous double-digit ‘dog situations in 2006, UGA went 2-0 ATS and won outright by a 37-15 score at Auburn as an 11 ½-point puppy.

UGA has won three of the last four head-to-head meetings against LSU, including a 34-14 win in the 2005 SEC title game. However, the Tigers prevailed in the last encounter, winning a 20-13 decision in Athens in 2009. The ‘over’ is 4-1 in the last five meetings between these long-time rivals.

Brian Edwards can be reached at

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