No. 2 Ge­or­gia gets tough­est test yet at No. 13 LSU

Rome News-Tribune - - SPORTS - By Brett Mar­tel AP Sports Writer

BA­TON ROUGE, La. — LSU run­ning back Nick Bros­sette said he’s been look­ing for­ward to play­ing Ge­or­gia “for a long time now,” and would search the in­ter­net for a tele­cast of the last time the Bull­dogs played in Tiger Sta­dium.

The video from 2008 shows a Ge­or­gia squad that fea­tured Matthew Stafford, A.J. Green and Know­shon Moreno — and which hardly looked in­tim­i­dated by the en­vi­ron­ment in Death Val- ley while post­ing 52 points in a two-touch­down vic­tory.

A decade later, the Bull­dogs (6-0, 4-0 SEC) re­turn with a No. 2 rank­ing, an un­blem­ished record and a ros­ter full of pro­duc­tive play­ers who, on one hand, ex­pect their tough­est chal­lenge of the sea­son so far, and on the other, sound very confident they’ll han­dle it — even though none of the teams they’ve played so far are cur­rently ranked.

“We’ve been tested,” Ge­or­gia tight end Isaac Nauta said. “We be­lieve that some of the best com- pe­ti­tion we’re go­ing to play is in prac­tice.”

Ge­or­gia quar­ter­back Jake Fromm is threat­en­ing to eclipse for­mer Ken­tucky quar­ter­back Tim Couch’s 1998 SEC sin­gle sea­son com­ple­tion per­cent­age record of 72.3. The Bull­dogs have a host of pro­duc­tive run­ning backs who’ve com­bined to av­er­age 245 yards rush­ing per game. And Ge­or­gia’s de­fense is among the stingi­est in the na­tion, al­low­ing 13 points per game.

“We just have to be Ge­or­gia foot­ball,” re­ceiver Terry Good- win said. “We haven’t played our best yet.”

Maybe not, but the Bull­dogs have bull­dozed their com­pe­ti­tion so far. Their slimmest vic­tory mar­gin has been by two touch­downs at Mis­souri.

Odds mak­ers have listed Ge­or­gia as slightly more than a touch­down fa­vorite at No. 13 LSU (5-1, 2-1), which was ranked fifth be­fore tum­bling down the AP Top 25 af­ter its first loss of the sea­son at Florida last week­end.

“Our team is fired up for an op­por­tu­nity to play in an awe­some place to play,” said Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia coach Kirby Smart, who coached the se­condary at LSU un­der Nick Sa­ban in 2004.

Smart raved about LSU’s size and phys­i­cal style on of­fense, adding, “As far as the ques­tions that our de­fen­sive line and our de­fense had, they’ll be an­swered this week for sure when we go out there to play these guys.”

The Tigers have not lost two straight since coach Ed Org­eron took over for Les Miles four games into the 2016 sea­son, go­ing 6-0 im­me­di­ately af­ter set­backs un­der the burly and bois­ter­ous Ca­jun who’s widely seen as a strong mo­ti­va­tor.

And the coach sounded cer­tain that fo­cus and en­ergy would be in am­ple sup­ply among his play­ers this week on the heels of a turnover- and penal­ty­plagued loss.

“We should have won that foot­ball game. They know it. I think the team is hun­gry,” Org­eron said. “Ge­or­gia’s got our at­ten­tion, has had ev­ery­body’s at­ten­tion all year.”

Some other story lines sur­round­ing Ge­or­gia’s visit to LSU:

Ground forces

Ge­or­gia ro­tates run­ning backs ef­fec­tively and it shows in their yards per carry. Eli­jah Holy­field has av­er­aged 7.4 yards per rush, De­An­dre Swift 4.9, Brian Her­rien 6.3 and James Cook 5.5. Ge­or­gia also ro­tates in Justin Fields at quar­ter­back, pro­vid­ing the op­tion to have an adept run­ner at that po­si­tion. Fields has rushed for three TDs.

LSU has largely split car­ries be­tween Bros­sette (96 yards per game) and Clyde Ed­wards-He­laire (55 ypg). Quar­ter­back Joe Bur­row is the Tigers’ thirdlead­ing rusher.

“They’ve got a lot of dif­fer­ent runs, toss-perime­ter runs. They do a good job of mix­ing up the run game,” Smart said of the Tigers. “That af­fects how you’re able to play the quar­ter­back. So we’ll have to see what all they come with.”

Line shuf­fle

LSU has used six of­fen­sive line com­bi­na­tions this sea­son, largely be­cause of in­juries. Org­eron said start­ing guard Gar­rett Brum­field re­mains out, but ex­pects to­day to mark the first time all sea­son he’s had the same of­fen­sive line two weeks in a row. Org­eron said coaches con­sid­ered an­other shuf­fle af­ter Bur­row was pres­sured reg­u­larly by Florida, but opted for the ben­e­fits of con­ti­nu­ity.

Pre­ci­sion pass­ing

With Ge­or­gia’s run­ning game so ef­fec­tive, Fromm doesn’t have to throw much and av­er­ages about 200 yards per game. But he has com­pleted 83 of 114 passes (72.8 per­cent) and has 12 touch­down passes against two in­ter­cep­tions. Fromm also has hit on big plays, such as touch­down passes of 75 and 35 yards last week vs. Van­der­bilt.

/ Joshua L. Jones-Athens Ban­ner-Her­ald via AP

Ge­or­gia ro­tates run­ning backs ef­fec­tively and it shows in their yards per carry. Eli­jah Holy­field (pic­tured) has av­er­aged 7.4 yards per rush, De­An­dre Swift 4.9, Brian Her­rien 6.3 and James Cook 5.5.

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