ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia’s offensive line struggled in its first two SEC games against South Carolina and Alabama but was significantly better the past two weeks against Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
Now the Bulldogs, with three freshmen and two sophomores in the starting lineup, must face an LSU defensive front with three senior starters.
“Every week is a challenge for those guys,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said Tuesday. “They’re still feeling their way around a little bit, but I like the way they’re playing. I don’t think they feel like they’re rookies anymore, and they’ve played enough to where they’re not nervous going into a game.”
The Bulldogs have not allowed a sack in two games but face a defense that collected six last Saturday night at South Carolina. Charles Alexander, Al Woods, Ricky Jean-Francois and Marlon Favorite might be the best group of defensive tackles nationally, but all four go out in passing situations in favor of the top four ends — Tyson Jackson, Tremaine Johnson, Kirston Pittman and Rahim Alem.
“When they go into that four-D-end set, they’re pretty good,” Bulldogs quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “Tyson Jackson is 290 pounds, so when you throw him inside, he’s not getting pushed around or anything.”
Said Richt: “That’s a problem, but the goal is always to stay out of a lot of third-and-long situations. That’s the best way to keep them off the field.”
LSU’s 38-24 victory over Ohio State in January’s BCS title game was hours old when Georgia president Michael Adams expressed his desire for an eight-team playoff. The Bulldogs were jumped by LSU, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma in the final BCS standings, and their thrashing of Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl resulted in a No. 2 finish in the AP poll.
“That was a long time ago in my mind,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “I certainly remember that and recall it, but I don’t think there’s an issue with our team.”
A pillow attack
Georgia cornerback Asher Allen dropped two interceptions in last week’s 24-14 win over Vanderbilt. Some players want to put such moments behind them, but Allen has been catching everything from footballs to tennis balls to pens ever since.
“My brother was in town for the game, and right when I came inside the door, he threw a pillow at me,” Allen said. “He was like, ‘What were you doing?’ The whole day he was throwing inanimate objects at me.”
Gearing for size
The Bulldogs lead the SEC and rank third nationally in rushing defense, allowing 61 yards a game, but will be tested Saturday. The Tigers, led by the beefy tailback tandem of Charles Scott (5-foot-11, 233) and Keiland Williams (5-11, 229), rank third in the league and 36th nationally with 178.3 yards a game.
LSU has the largest left side in the league with guard Herman Johnson (6-7, 375) and tackle Ciron Black (6-5, 325).
“We’re going to have to come with it this week and get them before they start rolling,” linebacker Darryl Gamble said.
Odds and ends
The SEC’s top two receivers statistically will be in Baton Rouge, with LSU junior Brandon LaFell leading the league in receptions per game (5.5) and Georgia freshman A.J. Green leading in yards per game (81.9). ... Richt sounded less optimistic Tuesday about linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (knee) and tight end Tripp Chandler (shoulder) playing but believes receiver Kris Durham (ankle) will be fine. ... LSU leads the series with Georgia 14-11-1. ... Senior receiver Mohamed Massaquoi is Georgia’s only returning starter from the 2005 team that defeated LSU for the SEC title. ... Senior cornerback Ramarcus Brown has replaced freshman tailback Richard Samuel as the Bulldogs’ primary kickoff returner
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...