Georgia makes a rare trip to Baton Rouge
College football’s game of the day is in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where 13th-ranked LSU hosts second-ranked Georgia.
It’s a typical SEC slobberknocker. Except it’s more like a non-conference game. These two programs don’t know each other very well.
The SEC's peculiar scheduling philosophy, compounded by the expansion to 14 schools in 2012, limits some series from being played often. Georgia and LSU now are scheduled to play only twice over any 12-year period.
Since 1990, Georgia has played in Baton Rouge only three times. In the last 25 years, the schools have met just seven times in the regular season. Thrice they have collided in SEC Championship Games.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart is lucky. As a Bulldog linebacker from 1995-98, he got to play in Tiger Stadium, a 28-27 Georgia victory in 1998.
“They have an incredible environment,” Smart said. “Their fanbase is really second to none in their atmosphere they create from the time you pull in on the buses.
“It’s an awesome opportunity for our team to play on a national stage. It’s an opportunity for a lot of our guys to play in a venue that that a lot of Georgia players never got a chance to play in and some in the future won’t get an opportunity to play in.”
But it’s not like Georgia hasn’t been on the SEC road already. The Bulldogs already have won at South Carolina (41-17) and Missouri (43-29).
This starts a rough threegame stretch for Georgia in which it doesn’t play Between the Hedges in Athens — at LSU, Florida on a neutral field in Jacksonville, at Kentucky.
A loss almost surely would make Georgia win out — including an SEC title game victory over probably Alabama — to reach the College Football Playoff. And it won’t be easy to win in Tiger Stadium. Smart knows that. Come Saturday, his players will know it, too.
In August, Wisconsin was a trendy pick for the College Football Playoff. Annually potent. In a good conference but a weak division. Seemed like all the necessary ingredients.
Then the Badgers stunningly lost at home to Brigham Young, and their stock has tumbled.
Now Wisconsin is a 10-point underdog at Michigan, for reasons that are somewhat unclear.
The Wolverines opened with a 24-17 loss at Notre Dame. They routed Nebraska, but since then struggled to survive Northwestern 20-17 and got past Maryland 42-21.
Since losing 24-21 to BYU, Wisconsin won 28-17 at Iowa and beat Nebraska 41-24.
Michigan has enigmatic coach Jim Harbaugh, while Wisconsin has Paul Chryst, who you couldn’t pick out of a State Farm insurance convention.
But Chryst is a quality coach who runs a quality program. Wisconsin is consistent. The wrong team might be favored. Let’s go with the Badgers in the upset.
Coach on the hot seat
Southern Cal coach Clay Helton stays in hot water. This week, he’s ranked eighth by coacheshotseat. com, which measures coaches most likely to be fired.
And I don’t get it. Helton took over as interim coach at USC early in the 2015 season, and the Trojans went 5-4 under him.
But in 2016, the Trojans went 10-3 and made the Rose Bowl, with Pac-12 champion Washington headed to the College Football Playoff. In 2017, USC went 11-3 and won its first Pac-12 title since 2008.
Now the Trojans are 3-2, with losses to Stanford and Texas. USC hosts Colorado on Saturday in a game that will go a long way in determining the South Division championship.
A loss could give CU a two-game lead in the division and would put Helton back in the frying pan, even though he’s done a good job with the Trojans.
Ranking the non-Big 12 games
1. Georgia at LSU, 2:30 p.m., CBS: In the 26-year history of the SEC Championship Game, only Alabama-Florida (eight times) is a more common matchup than LSU-Georgia (three).
2. Washington at Oregon, 2:30 p.m., ABC: The Ducks actually are closer to being unbeaten than are the Huskies. Oregon gave away the Stanford game.
3. Wisconsin at Michigan, 6:30 p.m., ABC: Fairly tough crossover schedule for the Badgers, who also play Penn State.
4. Colorado at Southern Cal, 9:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1:
The Pac-12 South is not the weakest division among the eight in the Power 5 conferences. The ACC Coastal has that distinction.
5. Michigan State at Penn State, 2:30 p.m., Big Ten Network: The Spartans were ranked 11th nationally in preseason. Now they’ve lost to Arizona State and Northwestern.
6. Central Florida at Memphis, 2:30 p.m., ESPN2: Josh Heupel’s Golden Knights have few hurdles to another unbeaten regular season. This is one.
7. Missouri at Alabama, 6 p.m., ESPN: This is Mizzou’s first trip to Tuscaloosa since 1975 — and yes, I know that they’ve shared a conference for the last seven years.
8. Hawaii at Brigham Young, 9:15 p.m., ESPN2: The Rainbows join Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia and Notre Dame in trying Saturday to reach seven wins.
9. Pittsburgh at Notre Dame, 1:30 p.m., NBC: Six of the last seven meetings in the series, all in the last 10 years, have been decided by a touchdown or less.
10. Texas A&M at South Carolina, 2:30 p.m., SEC Network:
Big game for the Aggies to establish themselves as above the SEC’s middle.
Kirby Smart yells from the sideline during Georgia’s game against Vanderbilt last week.