Bulldogs to Watch: Georgia vs. LSU

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Bulldogs to Watch: Georgia vs. LSU

UGA quarterback Jake Fromm (11)
UGA quarterback Jake Fromm (11)

JAKE FROMM (QB, #11)

After lighting up the Florida Gators secondary for 279 yards on 20-of-30 completions, Georgia’s junior signal-caller struggled to throw the football in the Bulldogs’ wins over Missouri, Auburn, and Texas A&M … completing less than 50 percent of his attempts in each game while admittedly going against staunch defensive units. Now, Fromm and the Georgia offense are facing their biggest challenge of the 2019 season as they go against top-ranked and unbeaten LSU in the SEC Championship Game Saturday. It almost goes without saying that the Bulldog quarterback, as well as Georgia’s running game, will need to be razor-sharp in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in order to control the ball, cash touchdowns and at the same time keep the explosive Tiger offense on the sidelines as much as possible.

D’ANDRE SWIFT (TB, #7)

Swift now ranks with UGA’s all-time running backs, after soaring over the 1,000-yard rushing mark for a second consecutive season. Almost certainly playing his last year in the Red and Black, this 5-9, 215-pound junior out of Philadelphia runs with great quickness, power and speed and leaves many an opposing defensive player grasping for air when Swift plants his foot in the ground and goes the other way. A huge game from Swift is a necessity Saturday in Atlanta and Georgia’s offensive front simply has to open the holes for Swift and Brian Herrien while also providing ample pass protection for Jake Fromm.

UGA offensive lineman Andrew Thomas (71)
UGA offensive lineman Andrew Thomas (71)

ANDREW THOMAS (OT, #71)

And speaking of the Bulldogs’ offensive line, it all starts with left tackle Thomas, the 6-5, 320-pound junior out of Pace Academy in Lithonia, Georgia, who is expected to be named First Team All-America in all of the different selection services this season. Thomas has been a starter for Georgia since the first day he stepped onto campus, manning the right tackle spot as a freshman and then left tackle the past two seasons. He is superb at both clearing the way for the Bulldogs’ running backs and with his pass blocking, and Thomas and his fellow O-linemen must be at the top of their game Saturday in Mercedes-Benz Stadium so the Georgia offense can control the football and score touchdowns rather than field goals. As for Thomas, he may well be playing with a chip on his shoulder since he inexplicably wasn’t named a finalist for the Outland Trophy, which goes to the nation’s top lineman.

MONTY RICE (ILB, #32)

Georgia’s leading tackler this season, the 6-1, 235-pound Rice has been the centerpiece for the Bulldogs’ sterling defensive unit. Rice always seems to be around the football and is adept at dropping the opposing ball-carrier in his tracks while also stepping up in pass coverage. Without question, the UGA defense has its work cut out in going against the nation’s top offensive unit Saturday. Rice and his fellow defenders not only need to bring the heat on All-America quarterback Joe Burrow but also eliminate big runs by the Tigers’ 1,000-yard plus running back, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who gashed the Bulldogs last season in Baton Rouge.

UGA defensive tackle Tyler Clark (52)
UGA defensive tackle Tyler Clark (52)

TYLER CLARK (DT, #52)

Just as Monty Rice and Tae Crowder front the Bulldogs’ linebacker corps, the 6-4, 300-pound Clark is a ringleader for Georgia’s defensive line. After sparkling in the Rose Bowl win over Oklahoma two years ago, this senior from Americus continued to post consistent performances for the defense in 2018 and this season. The team leader in tackles-for-loss, Clark has also recorded key quarterback sacks this fall including maybe the biggest defensive play of the game against Texas A&M when he had a fourth-quarter sack of Kellen Mond for a 10-yard loss. Now, Clark and Georgia’s defensive front are taking on the monumental task of slowing down LSU quarterback Burrow — the likely leader for this year’s Heisman Trophy — and a Tiger offense that lights up the scoreboard to the tune of 48 points per game.

DAN LANNING (Defensive Coordinator)

Assuming the title of Georgia’s defensive coordinator in February of this year after serving one year as the Bulldogs’ outside linebackers coach, Lanning has assisted head coach Kirby Smart into shaping the UGA defense into one of the nation’s very best. Before stepping onto the field against Georgia Tech this past Saturday, the Bulldogs ranked fifth nationally in total defense (allowing 267 total yards per game), were second in the country in rushing defense (yielding just 68.5 yards a game) and were also tied for second with Clemson in scoring defense, with opponents getting a meager 10.7 points per outing. But now, can this Dan Lanning-tutored Georgia defense go toe-to-toe with a dynamic LSU offense that has been putting up video-like numbers all season in blowing out one opponent after another? We’re about to find out Saturday as the Bulldogs shoot for a berth in the College Football Playoff.

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Murray Poole is a 1965 graduate of the University of Georgia Journalism School. He served as sports editor of The Brunswick News for 40 years and has written for Bulldawg Illustrated the past 16 years. He has covered the Georgia Bulldogs for 53 years.