LSU working for 'two rings'

LSU working for 'two rings'

November 29th, 2011 by David Paschall in Sports - College

MUNSON SERVICE

A one-hour memorial service at Sanford Stadium for legendary Georgia radio announcer Larry Munson has been set for 1 p.m. on Dec. 10. Seating will be on the south side of the stadium, and gates will open at noon. Free parking on a first-come, first-served basis will be available in all surface lots and the Tate Center parking deck.

The Southeastern Conference title game was essentially a national semifinal in 2008 and '09, when Alabama and Florida competed for berths in the BCS championship.

This year's league championship, however, is being billed more like an exhibition game for No. 1 LSU, which is projected to get a BCS title-game invitation regardless of Saturday's outcome against No. 12 Georgia. Not that the Tigers are treating the Bulldogs any differently from the first 12 foes they have dispatched this season.

"It is kind of weird, but we don't really look at it like that, because that's kind of like a distraction to us," LSU senior safety Brandon Taylor said Monday. "If you win the SEC championship, you get two rings, and that's what we've been playing for, and it wouldn't feel as great going to the national championship if you don't win the SEC championship.

"We feel like that's just not right."

LSU coach Les Miles expects his team to play "extremely well" Saturday, and Georgia counterpart Mark Richt isn't about to buy into the thought that the Tigers won't be as aggressive due to a comfortable perch in the BCS standings.

"I don't think that is going to be a factor at all," Richt said. "When a team is as good as they are and are in the habit of winning, all they know is winning. They are not going to let that creep in there in their mindset."

The Georgia Dome will be full of players who have yet to experience an SEC title game, though LSU fifth-year seniors such as center T-Bob Hebert, guard Will Blackwell and backup quarterback Jarrett Lee redshirted in 2007 when the Tigers toppled Tennessee 21-14. LSU went on to win the '07 national championship, the program's second in five years.

Blackwell said the focus this week is strictly on Atlanta and not the looming possibility of the program's third BCS title game in New Orleans.

"One thing about this team that really doesn't bother us is the outside talk and the outside noise," Blackwell said. "Going back to August and right at the end of camp, we've had problems [most notably the arrest and four-game suspension of starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson] and we've had adversity that we've dealt with.

"We've heard a lot of people on the outside say a lot of different things, but that hasn't slowed us up."

The Bulldogs haven't won an SEC title since 2005, and they haven't defeated a No. 1 team since 1985, when they shredded Florida 24-3. Georgia lost to the top-ranked Gators 47-7 in 1996 and 41-17 in 2009, and this is just the fifth such matchup in program history.

Georgia sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray has thrown for a whopping 56 touchdowns in less than two seasons, but he doesn't want that to be his eventual legacy.

"People talk about stats, but I think the biggest stat is how many championships you have won," Murray said. "My goal is to win a few while I'm here, and my first opportunity is this weekend. If we could get this win and then a couple more from here on out, it would be a great feeling.

"As a quarterback, you are judged on championships."

Much has changed

Many believe the Bulldogs will be overmatched Saturday in the Dome, and that wouldn't be a first. Georgia opened its season there against Boise State, suffering a 35-21 loss in which the Broncos twice led by three touchdowns.

"We're a totally different team from the first game in the Dome," senior cornerback Brandon Boykin said. "Everybody has a lot more experience to play in that environment and know what it's like to play in a big game. We had a lot of freshmen, a lot of young guys, who played that first game against a very experienced Boise team, and now that the season has progressed, they aren't freshmen anymore.

"We'll definitely be ready to play."

Odds and ends

Richt is not making any of his tailbacks available to the media this week. ... Bulldogs sophomore defensive end Garrison Smith was named Monday as SEC co-defensive lineman of the week after making seven tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss in Saturday's 31-17 win at Georgia Tech. ... LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis was named Monday among five finalists for the Broyles Award, given annually to the nation's top assistant coach.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.