ATHENS, Ga. -- Saturday afternoon's LSU-Georgia game is the biggest college football matchup of the weekend.
The last time the Bulldogs and Tigers met, they decided the Southeastern Conference championship.
On Dec. 3, 2011, Georgia ventured to the Georgia Dome as a decided underdog against the top-ranked Tigers but took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. Dropped passes by Tavarres King and Malcolm Mitchell could have given the Bulldogs an even bigger advantage, but LSU's Tyrann Matheiu flipped the momentum midway through the second quarter with a 62-yard punt return for a touchdown to pull the Tigers within three.
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray fumbled on the third play of the second half, and the Tigers capitalized with a touchdown on their way to a 42-10 romp.
"At halftime, we knew we had kind of kicked ourselves in the butt," Bulldogs receiver Michael Bennett said Tuesday, "but we had also played pretty well in a lot of aspects. That was definitely a learning experience for our program and our team to get to the SEC championship game and play that well, but obviously we didn't respond in the second half."
Midway through the fourth quarter, Kenny Hilliard had three straight runs totaling 45 yards before Alfred Blue went 48 yards for a touchdown.
"They didn't have a first down in the first half of that game," Bulldogs inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera said, "but they came out and ran the ball a lot better, and they kept running the ball."
Not enough room
Murray and Zach Mettenberger signed with Georgia in 2009, enrolled early and competed through the spring of 2010 before Mettenberger was dismissed. Had the dismissal not occurred, could the two touted quarterbacks and roommates coexisted to this point?
"I doubt both of us would have stayed," Murray said. "I'm sure one of us probably would have left, and you could be talking to him right now while I'm at LSU or another school. I doubt both of us would have stayed and tried whatever -- one of us would have been gone and playing somewhere else."
The Bulldogs came up 5 yards short against Alabama last December and 5 yards short of playing for the BCS championship.
Georgia's BCS hopes this season would be all but over with a loss to LSU. The Tigers are the only Bowl Subdivision team to win a national title with two losses, having accomplished that in 2007.
"I think that's how we're going to take the preparation to this game," Bulldogs cornerback Damian Swann said. "We have to treat it like that if we want to get to the goals that we've set for ourselves. We have to get this game.
"This is like an elimination game for us. To get to that game seven, you've got to win game six, and this is game six right here."
Show of unity
Several of Georgia's offensive linemen wore "APU" on their wristbands in last Saturday's win over North Texas.
The message is short for "All Players United," and players of other schools such as Georgia Tech and Northwestern displayed the letters as well in protest over the NCAA's treatment of athletes. Georgia coach Mark Richt said Tuesday that he was still trying to figure out what it was all about.
"We have the freedom of speech in our country, but the question is what's the most appropriate way of doing it," Richt said. "Based on what I read about what their concerns were seemed like pretty legitimate concerns."
Georgia's offensive linemen have been off limits to the media since soon after the 41-30 win over South Carolina on Sept. 7. Other Bulldogs players such as Murray and tight end Arthur Lynch had no idea about the protest, with Lynch admitting, "I thought it was an inside joke."
Odds and ends
Tailback Keith Marshall (knee bruise), receiver Justin Scott-Wesley (shoulder bruise) and tight end Jay Rome (ankle) should be fine to play this week, Richt said, but outside linebacker James DeLoach is doubtful with concussion symptoms. ... Redshirt sophomore Nathan Theus is listed as the starting snapper on this week's depth chart, but Richt said Theus and freshman Trent Frix of Calhoun are vying for that spot. ... Georgia has a losing all-time record against four charter members of the SEC: Alabama (25-37-4), LSU (12-16-1), Sewanee (5-7-1) and Tennessee (19-21-2).
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.