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Behind the Hedges: SEC Championship Recap

Who Covered?

LSU vs UGA (-17.5) (o/u 52)

UGA 50 - LSU 20

ATS (UGA -17.5)


Over/Under (+/- 52)


SEC Championship Recap

SEC CHAMPIONSHIP RECAP - The Georgia Bulldogs routed the LSU Tigers in the SEC Championship game on Saturday that defied expectations. If you had told me that LSU scored 30 and had 500 yards passing, I would have assumed Georgia would have lost.

In fact, they had only won once while giving up more than 29 points before Saturday. Yet, they also have only lost once while scoring 30 or more, and the Dawgs did that in the first half. 

The Game

After each team failed to score their opening possession, LSU marched down the field and lined up a field goal. Nazir Stackhouse blocked the kick. While most players either celebrated or trotted off the field, safety Chris Smith stood over the ball, waiting. He then, picked it up and ran it nearly the length of the field for a touchdown. 

Chris Smith must have been winded from running 95 yards, because three plays later he got burned by Kayshon Boutte for a long touchdown for LSU to tie it up. Georgia missed 9 tackles on the game, and three came on that play alone. 

The Dawgs then turned to star tight end Brock Bowers on the next drive. He caught three passes on the drive for 15, 32, and finally 3 yards for the touchdown. 

Fluke Play

Georgia capitalized on another fluke play, as Chris Smith collided with the LSU tight end as he was catching a pass over the middle. The ball bounced off the tight end’s helmet, was tipped, and then intercepted by Georgia linebacker Smael Mondon for his first career INT. On the next play Stetson Bennett hit Ladd McConkey on a post for a 22-yard touchdown. 

Early in the game, it was clear Jayden Daniels was not 100%. He took some light hits and quickly began limping. While he was still effective at passing the ball for the half, it was clear his legs were not going to be the threat they ought to be. LSU went on a 3 and out and Georgia quickly took full control of the game. Despite missing a field goal after a 9-play 58-yard drive, the Dawg defense had no trouble stopping LSU. 

They responded with a 13-play drive where passes to receivers Ladd McConkey and Dominick Blaylock kept the drive alive. Then, Georgia found it’s other star tight end Darnell Washington on a post for a 14-yard touchdown. It was just his second of the year. 

After forcing another punt, Stetson Bennett led the Dawgs on another scoring drive through the air starting with hitting Kearis Jackson on a screen taken for 19 yards. RB Daijun Edwards railed off a 15-yard run, and eventually Bennett found freshman Dillon Bell on a short throw for the touchdown. 

Daniels, despite being hobbled, marched LSU down the field for 3 points just before half. The game was already over, with the Dawgs up 35-10. 

Nail in the Coffin

However, QB Garrett Nussmeier was able to punish Georgia’s secondary for the remainder of the game. He and Daniels combined for over 500 passing yards on the game. Yet, an interception in the end zone and a turnover on down in the red zone kept LSU from truly getting back in striking distance. 

Georgia RB Kendall Milton had his best game in the red and black. His 51-yard run in the second half was the longest from a RB this season, a record he had previously set last week. His late season surge is looking great for the Dawgs. Fellow RB Kenny McIntosh punched in two touchdowns in the second half as the Dawgs went on to score 50 on the Tigers.

Things I Liked

Stetson Bennett may have had his best game for Georgia on Saturday. He went 23/29 for 274 and 4 touchdowns. He hardly even had to use his legs. He never put a ball in danger and was able to make play after play for the Georgia offense, winning the MVP for the game. That gives him a SEC Championship MVP, Orange Bowl MVP, and National Championship MVP performances.

At the beginning of the year, I said that people shouldn’t be shocked if he is in New York for the Heisman ceremony. He had the most Heisman-worthy performance during conference championship weekend, and I hope he does get invited to the Heisman ceremony.

He doesn’t deserve to win, but for those the people who think he is just a game manager, you’d be wrong. His best performances all year have been against the toughest competition. If he plays at this level in the playoffs, look for Georgia to score in the 40s no matter who their opponent is.

Jalen Carter

DL Jalen Carter made one of the most dominant plays I’ve seen in Georgia history. After falling to a knee in a pass rush, Carter grabbed Jayden Daniels by the waist. With one arm, he lifted him up in the air as refs blew the play dead. With his free hand, he raised his index finger, perhaps noting that Georgia deserves to be #1 in nation. Or maybe he is predicting him being drafted first overall in the NFL next year. Carter is an impact player every game, but he has the ability to hit another gear in the biggest games. He knocked LSU’s right tackle on his butt on a key 4th down to disrupt the run and force the turnover. He was also in the mix on the blocked field goal. 

Kendall Milton

RB Kendall Milton finished with 8 carries for 113 yards, a career high. He is finally healthy, and is fresh from not getting hit all season. He’s running hard, and as Coach Smart noted after the game, is getting his pad level to the proper height on his runs. He’s beginning to look like the 5-star player Georgia hoped he would become. Fellow backs Daijun Edwards and Kenny McIntosh had solid games as well with 77 and 55 yards respectively. 

Chris Smith

Safety Chris Smith had a boom or bust game. He cost Georgia some points, but he more than made up for it by returning the blocked field goal, getting an interception, and providing the key hit to force another interception. CB Kamari Lassiter had a great game as well with 4 tackles, 1 PBU, and hardly giving up any yards in receptions. 

Getting it Done

Georgia has shown now that it can win in a variety of games through a variety of ways. Georgia can run the ball down your throat when it needs to. It can dice you up through the air. It can control the ball and go on long drives, or find another gear to be explosive. Stetson can throw the ball 40 times or 18, and Georgia can win either way. They can grind out a low scoring game against Kentucky, and finish a shootout against LSU. This team has weaknesses and warts, but man, it is capable of doing it all. 

Punter Brett Thorson had a great game with 4 punts averaging 51.8 yards per kick.

LSU could not run the ball. They finished the game with 43 yards rushing, which literally came on one play. Georgia made LSU one dimensional, which is how you can give up so many yards passing and still win the game. 

Things I Did Not Like

Georgia got 4 sacks on the game, but in general they did not have much of a pass rush in this contest.

This contributed to LSU passing for over 500 yards. Kelee Ringo and Malaki Starks had their worst performances of the season. Multiple times they missed their assignment, and at times even gave up big plays while double-covering LSU receivers.

The Secondary

Kayshon Boutte and Malik Nabers had over 100 yards receiving. Ringo and Starks aren’t responsible for all of that, of course, but they couldn’t track the ball in the air and lacked focus. To be fair, the entire second half was basically garbage time, as Georgia was up 25 at half.

The game was over. And UGA asks Ringo to do much more at corner than his counter part in Kamari Lassiter. Still, Georgia will have a lot to do to stop Ohio State’s elite receivers, who will be the best they have seen all year.

Ringo had a great performance against Tennessee, but has struggled since then. He doesn’t deserve all the criticism he is getting from Georgia fans, but Saturday was not a good game for him. Malaki Starks had an even worse game and few are critiquing him in like they are Ringo.

PFF gave Starks a 46.9 grade on the game and Ringo a 57. Oof. 

Injury Bug

Georgia picked up a couple of injuries. RT Warren McClendon exited the game with an MCL injury. Leading receiver Ladd McConkey also left the game with a leg injury. Thankfully, McConkey’s was an aggravation of tendonitis, and McClendon’s MCL isn’t severe. At the moment, both are expected to return for the playoffs. 

LB Jamon Dumas-Johnson has struggled more as the season has gone on. At times he over-pursues or he is too slow to react. He’s a dang good player, but seems to have hit a wall with his progression. He did not have a great game either.

Final Thoughts

Georgia established itself at the top team in the nation once again by winning the SEC.

This team is far from perfect and I would argue worse than last year’s team. Yet, they may still be the best in CFB this year. Despite their flaws, this team has shown a resilience that I haven’t seen for an entire season from a Georgia team in my lifetime.

Kirby Smart has recruited so much depth, has developed players at an elite level, that he’s taking a team to the playoff that lacks a true #1 receiver and a former walk-on at QB. They lost 15 players to the draft, their defensive coordinator, receivers coach, and DB’s coach, and are back in the playoff again. What Georgia has been able to do this season is remarkable, and if they play to their ability, the season can still get better. 

With the match up against Ohio State, I think it kind of sucks for the #1 team to face a #4 seed that is clearly superior tot he #3 seed.

The good news for the Dawgs is that they have 4 weeks to prepare and everyone will continue to doubt they can stop Ohio State’s passing attack. While they got the hardest draw, they also got the best tools to defeat the team they will struggle to match up against the most. I don’t know if they can stop Ohio State’s receivers, but at this point to bet against Kirby to win that game is hard to understand.

I’ll worry about Ohio State in a few weeks. Right now, it’s great to be a Georgia Bulldog.

#1 UGA Bulldogs vs. #4 Ohio State Buckeyes

Saturday, 12/31 at 8:00 pm on ESPN












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