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LSU vs. Georgia: No Lack Of Confidence On Either Side

Alex Groberman 

Heading into this week’s SEC showdown between the LSU Tigers and Georgia Bulldogs one thing is for certain: there is no lack of confidence on either side.

During a recent interview regarding the looming game, Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones fired the first shot in what promises to back an interesting back-and-forth when he said that his team’s defense was “just as good, if not better” than LSU’s. Needless to say, given the fact that the Tigers have largely hung their hats on the notion that they are the best defensive team in all the land (even though the Alabama Crimson Tide is, if you go by stats), the remark was expected to generate a response.

But it didn’t.

If anything, LSU players appear so secure in the strength of their calling card that they don’t mind being a little humble – with reporters around, at least.

“He may have a point,” Tyrann Mathieu said. “I know those guys are going to go out there and play hard. I know he’s going to go out there and play a little bit extra hard. It’s just about us playing our style of football.”

It’s not as if Georgia doesn’t have a reason to be confident. Whereas the Tigers currently allow nearly 249 yards per game, the Bulldogs aren’t far behind with a similarly impressive 271 yards. The two teams rank at No. 2 and No. 5 in the nation, respectively. LSU also allows 86 yards per game rushing, whereas Georgia allows nearly 95 yards. The rank breakdown is fourth and sixth when it comes to rushing yards given up, respectively. The only real asterisk by Bulldogs’ stats is that they haven’t played as a tough a schedule as their Louisiana-based counterparts.

Then again, earning 10 consecutive wins, lighter schedule or not, is still impressive. And while defense has been absolutely instrumental in that, Georgia has also been firing on all cylinders offensively as of late. Quarterback Aaron Murray currently leads in the SEC in both touchdown passes and efficiency, and if anyone can challenge an LSU secondary that has intercepted 16 passes on the year it’s definitely him.

Not that he’s going to admit that, of course.

“It’s amazing, just how many plays they make,” Murray said. “You talk about Mathieu, you’ve got to worry about him on special teams. They’re great athletes.

“You put them in the category, when I was watching the film, of just athletes like Jarvis Jones on our team. They’re football players. They know how to go out there and make plays, and they’re exciting to watch.”

That obvious respect for what the LSU defense can do is appropriate, given the fact that it has allowed 12 touchdowns in 12 games. That, coupled with a nose for interceptions makes the unit a nightmare for any quarterback, including one as efficient as of late Murray.

The biggest question for the Tigers in this one is how their offensive production will counteract the production of the opposing offense. Both tremendous defenses notwithstanding, quarterback Jordan Jefferson’s ability to play above his 18-of-29, 208-yard, one touchdown and one interception effort versus the Arkansas Razorbacks will be key. While LSU clearly proved that they knew how to put points on the board in a hurry following an early 14-0 Arkansas lead, Jefferson remains relatively unproven this year because how dominant his team has been on the other end.

A repeat of last week’s performance from running back Kenny Hilliard — who had 102 yards and a score on 19 carries — will also be instrumental in earning a win this time around.

Ultimately, if the Tigers play the game their way and don’t allow the Bulldogs to pressure them, they should emerge victorious in this one.

As admirable Georgia’s confidence is, and as impressive as the 10-game winning streak undeniably has been, the better team typically wins in college football.

LSU is that better team.

The game kicks off at 4:00 p.m. eastern time, Saturday.

Get more sports analysis over at Opposing Views.

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SEC Headlines 8/5/2011

1. Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen says his 20th ranked Bulldogs are “a lot faster.” Confidence high in the Bulldogs camp.

2. Bulldogs tight end Kendric Cook’s career is over because a narrowing spinal column.

3. Despite relinquishing his offensive coordinator duties because of Parkinson’s disease, Steve Kragthorpe will be heavily involved with the LSU offense but it will still be a smaller role.

4. The good and bad news for the eight preseason-ranked SEC teams.

5. Houston Nutt likes his newcomers at Ole Miss.

6. Alabama opens camp with a star-studded defense and questions about offense. Five questions for the Tide.

7. Corey Grant chose Alabama over Auburn coming out of high school but now he’s a walk-on for the Tigers.

8. Auburn defensive lineman Derrick Lykes dismissed from team.

9. ESPN gets an all-access look at the battle for quarterback at Auburn. Tigers will put on pads for the first time tonight.

10. If Florida’s going to be a contender this year, here are five things to watch.

11. “Weed quadruple play” for the Gators.

12. Georgia freshman running back Isaiah Crowell is wearing No. 1 - and has some company.

13. The Bulldogs await an answer on the eligibility status of linebacker Jarvis Jones.

14. Questions for the Bulldogs and questions about Mark Richt.

15. Georgia’s had incoming classes with similar pedigrees, but none with this much buzz.  Nearly one in three players on scholarship are from the 2011 class.

16. Team bonding starts now with Kentucky if they can get over the heat.

17. It’s football season but basketball always dominates the headlines in Lexington.  Keeping Up With The Caliparis?

18. Jadeveon Clowney isn’t the only player generating buzz at South Carolina.

19. Alshon Jeffery returns to practice after being involved in a minor car accident this week.

20. Day One at Arkansas -defense ahead of the offense.  Razorbacks select six captains.

21. Vanderbilt returns all three of its running backs with SEC experience.

22. Tennessee defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox expects a lot of competition for starting jobs on his side of the ball. Senior defensive tackle Malik Jackson is a key to success.

23. Offensive coordinator Jim Cheney says his offense is “a little more grown-up.”

24. He’s said it before – he’ll say it again.  Lane Kiffin’s son – Monte Knox Kiffin – not named for Knoxville.

25. Bruce Pearl considers a developmental league offer.

26. Former Tennessee player John Fields is headed to Finland.

27. Both the FBI and IRS investigating former Georgia coach Jim Donnan.

28. Changes could be coming to basketball recruiting.

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UGA Aims For Quick Answers On AAU Issue

Georgia officials plan to file a report with the SEC and NCAA by the end of the week in the hopes of bringing a quick resolution to an AAU scandal involving two current UGA athletes.

Benefits provided to football player Jarvis Jones and basketball player Kentavious Caldwell-Pope while they were members of a Columbus, Georgia AAU squad have brought their eligibility into question.

“I quit trying to guess how things will turn out,” Georgia AD Greg McGarity told The Athens Banner-Herald last night.  “The bottom line is, it is what it is and you report whatever you find out and try to uncover everything at one time.  If we can wrap this up by August 1st, that gives (the NCAA and the SEC) time to react.  That’s what you hope.”

Jones — who transferred back to Georgia from Southern Cal — is expected to compete for playing time at linebacker this fall.  Therefore, the sooner the better when it comes to getting a ruling on his eligibility.

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UGA’s McGarity Contacts SEC, NCAA Over Improper Benefits Story

Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity announced yesterday that his school has contacted both the SEC and the NCAA with regards to improper benefits two UGA athletes might have received during their high school years.

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported on Sunday that a police investigation into Columbus’ Parks and Recreating Department had found that football player Jarvis Jones and basketball player Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had received benefits while starring for a Columbus AAU team.

“The UGAAA and the student-athletes will work cooperatively with both entities (SEC and NCAA) as the process continues,” read McGarity’s release.  He also said that the school would make no additional comments “until the matter is resolved.”

The amateur status of both Jones and Caldwell-Pope are now in question due to the investigation’s findings.

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Fox Learned Of Parks & Rec Issue Sunday

As we told you earlier today, a police investigation into the Columbus, Georgia Parks and Recreation Department uncovered money that had been spent on two local AAU stars.  Jarvis Jones is now on Georgia’s football team.  Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is now on Georgia’s basketball team.  And both now are having their amateur status questioned.

Bulldog basketball coach Mark Fox told The Athens Banner-Herald that he just learned of the situation yesterday:

“Obviously, we’ll cooperate with the process.  Really can’t speculate on what penalty there would be if there is one.”

Fox won’t speculate, but we will. 

Best case scenario: The two players are forced to repay the money that went toward airline tickets and a cell phone bill.  Jones would have to cough up $828.40.  Caldwell-Pope would have to give back $280.90.

Worst case scenario: Both players have their amateur status stripped and are banned from playing at UGA.

Our expectation: As long as nothing else is uncovered — and don’t think the NCAA won’t focus in on Jones and Caldwell-Pope going forward — both players will likely be given a multi-game suspension and forced to repay the cash. 

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