LSU pounds Georgia to prove it is in the College Football Playoff race

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LSU pounds Georgia to prove it is in the College Football Playoff race

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Week 7 in college football was jam-packed with action including upset losses for ranked teams, overtime thrillers and much more.
USA TODAY

BATON ROUGE, La. – Believe it, y’all – LSU is for real. If you wondered after that tumultuous offseason, if you weren’t sure during that surprising run through the first half of the season, if you worried after that loss last week at Florida – well, here’s a data point that will send shock waves through college football. In easily the most significant win of Ed Orgeron’s tenure, the Tigers set up the opportunity for even bigger victories.

Here are three takeaways from No. 12 LSU’s 36-16 defeat of No. 2 Georgia:

– This was easily the most impressive performance in a seven-game run that remains astounding, considering the expectations. Heck, it was the Tigers’ most impressive victory since 2011, that 9-6 slugfest against No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. But that LSU team was ranked No. 1. This one? No one was really sure what to make of it after the loss in Gainesville. But the defense stymied Georgia. And although the Tigers had to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns, allowing it to remain a game into the fourth quarter, they put it away with a drive that was keyed by Joe Burrow’s pretty pass down the seam to Justin Jefferson. Two plays later, Burrow scored on a sneak. And when LSU recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, the party in the Bayou had begun.

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– Everything remains in play for Georgia, though the margin for error is almost certainly gone. Georgia’s path to the College Football Playoff now likely means winning out (or perhaps losing only once more) and definitely includes winning the SEC championship.

But far more important was the revelation: This Georgia team is not that Georgia team.

Its No. 2 ranking was built on 2017’s production, which is why the issue going forward isn’t so much the potential path to the playoff as the Bulldogs’ production. Their defensive front seven only faintly resembles the sometimes dominant unit of last year. Jake Fromm hasn’t been as good as he was late last season (in the first half Saturday, he completed only 5 of 16 passes for 47 yards).

It’s only one loss. But it might have exposed some significant flaws. And though Georgia could roll from here, there’s no certainty the Bulldogs will even win the SEC East.

– Coach ‘O’ was ready to go … for it. Three times during the first half – and then again in the third quarter – LSU went for it on fourth-and-short. The Tigers converted all four times. And although the conversions were significant in producing a 16-0 halftime lead, they also served to make a collective statement: LSU wasn’t going to get pushed around; the Tigers would do the pushing. Contrast that with Kirby Smart’s very Les Miles-like decision – right down to the actual play call – to try a fake field goal that required kicker Rodrigo Blankenship to run at least 20 yards to get 9 and a first down. It failed. And with Georgia trailing only 3-0 at the time, it was an odd decision. Kick it and tie it.

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