Georgia almost certainly is going to the College Football Playoff regardless of what happens in the Southeastern Conference championship game on Saturday in Atlanta.
LSU is not going to the CFP regardless of what happens in the SEC Championship Game.
Nonetheless, the No. 1 Bulldogs (12-0, 8-0 SEC), champions of the East Division, and the No. 14 Tigers (9-3, 6-2), champions of the West Division, both have a lot to gain by winning on Saturday — a significant trophy and momentum going into whatever their next destination is.
The situation is very similar to the one Georgia faced last season when it was undefeated and No. 1 as it faced Alabama. The Bulldogs figured to go to the CFP even if they lost. The Crimson Tide needed to win to get in, and they played like it, upsetting the Bulldogs 41-24.
However, Georgia shook off the loss and took care of business in the CFP, beating Michigan in the semifinals and winning a rematch with Alabama for the national championship.
“We’re worried about winning the SEC championship,” Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said. “That’s the most important thing on our agenda. It’s tough to win an SEC championship. I’ve been part of this league for a long time. I have almost as many national championships as I do SEC championships.”
Georgia has not lost since last season’s SEC championship game. Only one of the Bulldogs’ games this season was decided by a touchdown or less — a 26-22 victory at Missouri on Oct. 1.
A victory on Saturday would give Georgia a chance to accomplish something even last year’s team didn’t — an undefeated national championship season.
“It’s not about last year’s team or a comparison,” Smart said. “It’s about that next step and having an opportunity to put a number on the wall that stays there forever. It’s an SEC championship. I think our players take a lot of pride in that.”
LSU, in its first season under former Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, was in strong contention for a CFP berth before being upset by unranked Texas A&M 38-23 in its regular-season finale.
“We’ve had certainly some bumps in the road, but we’ve had some great achievements in developing our program here in the first year,” Kelly said. “Our football team has gotten better as the season has gone along.
“This is a great challenge, but one that we’re excited about. We want to be able to represent the SEC West and certainly play to our standard.”
The Tigers, who lost to Florida State in their season opener and to Tennessee on Oct. 1, didn’t play to their season-long standard against the Aggies. LSU’s John Emery Jr. ran for three touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough.
That loss dropped them nine spots in the CFP rankings Tuesday night, though they can still earn a substantial bowl berth by winning Saturday.
“This group has a lot of fight,” Kelly said. “That’s why they’ll go to Atlanta, and they will fight, and they will play hard for four quarters, and they will give everything they have against a very talented Georgia team.”
The Tigers will attempt to slow a Bulldogs passing attack led by quarterback Stetson Bennett (3,151 yards, 16 touchdowns, six interceptions).
–Field Level Media
No. 1 Georgia started slowly before pulling away from visiting Georgia Tech for a 37-14 victory on Saturday at Athens, Ga., giving the Bulldogs consecutive undefeated regular seasons for the first time in school history.
Stetson Bennett went just 10-of-18 passing for 140 yards and two touchdowns for the Bulldogs (12-0), who will face No. 5 LSU in the SEC title game on Dec. 3.
Georgia Tech (5-7) missed becoming bowl eligible for the fourth straight season after falling to its in-state rival for the fifth straight year and for the 18th time in the past 21 meetings.
The Bulldogs trailed 7-0 after the Yellow Jackets’ first drive before scoring the game’s next 37 points.
Kenny McIntosh rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and caught two passes for 96 yards for Georgia, while Brock Bowers had five catches, including a 1-yard touchdown, for 20 yards.
Georgia Tech’s Zach Gibson went 19-of-35 passing for 191 yards, with Nate McCollum catching six passes for 65 yards. Dontae Smith rushed for 34 yards on 10 carries, in addition to throwing a 24-yard touchdown pass to Malachi Carter.
Leading 10-7 at halftime, Georgia extended its lead to 20-7 when Jack Podlesny’s 50-yard field goal was followed by Bennett’s 1-yard touchdown pass to Bowers with 5:51 left in the third quarter.
Jamie Felix fumbled on Georgia Tech’s next play from scrimmage, with Georgia’s Robert Beal Jr. recovering on the Yellow Jackets’ 20-yard line. Podlesny’s 36-yard field goal extended the lead to 23-7 with 4:11 left in the quarter.
McIntosh followed an 83-yard reception with a 2-yard touchdown run to push the lead to 30-7 with 13:45 left in the game.
Kendall Milton’s 44-yard touchdown run made it 37-7 with 11:13 to go before Smith capped the scoring with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Carter on a halfback-option pass with 2:55 left.
Georgia Tech, which lost to Georgia 45-0 last year, took a 7-0 lead on backup quarterback Taisun Phommachanh’s 7-yard touchdown with 10:43 left in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs pulled to within 7-3 on Podlesny’s 30-yard field goal with 18 seconds left in the first quarter.
Georgia took the lead for good on its next possession when Bennett threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint with 7:59 left in the first half.
–Field Level Media
Top-ranked Georgia will look to secure consecutive undefeated regular seasons for the first time in school history by continuing its dominance over in-state rival Georgia Tech on Saturday in Athens, Ga.
The game, which is nicknamed “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate,” has become as one-sided as any in the nation. Georgia has won the past four meetings by an average of 36.3 points after a 45-0 win last year. The Bulldogs have beaten the Yellow Jackets in 17 of the past 20 meetings.
Georgia (11-0, 8-0 SEC) is coming off a 16-6 victory at Kentucky on Saturday and will play in the SEC title game for the fifth time in the past six years when it faces LSU on Dec. 3.
Georgia Tech (5-6, 4-4 ACC) rallied from a 17-0 second-quarter deficit to pull out a 21-17 upset of then-No. 13 North Carolina (9-2, 6-1 ACC) on Saturday in Chapel Hill, N.C.
The Yellow Jackets, however, must defeat Georgia to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2018.
Georgia is first nationally in scoring defense (11.09 points per game), third in rushing defense (83.1 yards per game), fifth in total defense (272.1 ypg) and 11th in scoring offense (38.4 points).
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett has completed 67.8 percent of his passes for 3,011 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions, leading an offense that is seventh in the country in yards per game (496.3).
Tight end Brock Bowers has 41 receptions for 625 yards with four touchdowns, while Ladd McConkey has 46 catches for 606 yards and four touchdowns. Kenny McIntosh has been a threat out of the backfield with 33 receptions for 341 yards and a score, in addition to rushing for 568 yards and seven scores on 111 carries.
The Bulldogs’ Daijun Edwards is averaging 5.1 yards per carry, having rushed for 547 yards and seven touchdowns on 107 carries.
Georgia Tech has gone 4-3 under interim coach Brent Key, who was promoted from assistant head coach and run game coordinator after the school fired Geoff Collins following a loss to Central Florida on Sept. 24 that dropped the Yellow Jackets to 1-3.
Key, however, could be coaching his final game with the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech also fired athletic director Rick Stansbury and hired J Batt, the former executive deputy director of athletics, chief operating officer and chief revenue officer at Alabama.
“I’m worried about Georgia, it’s the No. 1 team in the country,” Key said. “It’s the biggest challenge of my life right now, taking this group over there to Athens at 12 o’clock on Saturday.
“It’s Georgia and Georgia Tech, and that’s why you come to school here, is to play this game, it’s an honor.”
The Yellow Jackets’ two quarterback system of Zach Gibson, who went 13-for-18 passing for 174 yards, and Taisun Phommachanh, who went 2-for-5 passing for 13 yards in addition to rushing for 44 yards and a score on 10 carries, led an offense that amassed 373 yards against the Tar Heels.
The defense held North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye, a Heisman Trophy candidate, to 16-for-30 passing for 202 yards and an interception.
“They’re playing really well now. They’re playing really hard now,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “I think (Key) has done a tremendous job at getting these guys to compete.”
–Field Level Media
More efficient than spectacular, top-ranked Georgia closed out a perfect run through its Southeastern Conference schedule Saturday with a 16-6 win over Kentucky in Lexington, Ky.
The Bulldogs (11-0, 8-0) never really pulled away from the Wildcats (6-5, 3-5) but were never really threatened. Georgia scored on all three of its first-half possessions, although all were field goals, and finally tacked on a touchdown with a 9-yard run by Kenny McIntosh at the 6:22 mark of the third quarter.
Kentucky’s only points came when Will Levis threw an 8-yard scoring strike to Barion Brown with 9:52 left in the game. But the Wildcats weren’t able to convert on a 2-point pass that could have brought them within a score.
Kentucky missed on another chance to draw within one possession when a bad snap led to a poor hold with the laces facing the kicker that led Matt Ruffalo to hook a 38-yard field goal wide left with 4:17 remaining.
It was the second straight year that the Bulldogs ran through the SEC undefeated. They won this game with defense and the running game. They outgained the Wildcats 247-89 on the ground, limiting Kentucky’s star back Chris Rodriguez to 51 yards on 17 attempts.
Levis completed 20 of 31 passes for 206 yards and an interception. Brown was his main target with 10 catches for 145 yards.
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett didn’t have much of an impact, hitting 13 of 19 passes for 116 yards with an interception. But McIntosh took up slack with 143 yards on 19 rushes.
Jack Podlesny accounted for all the first-half points for the Bulldogs, connecting on field goals of 27, 24 and 37 yards. Georgia hogged the ball for just over five minutes on each of its first two drives before squeezing 11 plays and 56 yards into the half’s final 2:03.
The Bulldogs outgained Kentucky 363-295 but were held to fewer than 26 points for the first time this season.
–Field Level Media
After taking the top spot in the College Football Playoff rankings, Georgia will look to prove it belongs there against Mississippi State in Southeastern Conference play on Saturday in Starkville, Miss.
Georgia (9-0, 6-0 SEC), which was third in the initial CFP rankings, is coming off a dominating, 27-13 home win last week over then-No. 1 Tennessee, which fell to No. 5.
Mississippi State (6-3, 3-3) defeated visiting Auburn 39-33 in overtime last week to end a two-game slide.
Georgia can win its fifth SEC East title in the past six years with a win over Mississippi State or a victory next week at No. 24 Kentucky. Georgia also advances to the SEC title game if Tennessee loses any of its three remaining league games, beginning with Saturday’s contest against visiting Missouri.
While Mississippi State outgained Auburn 370-331 in total yards and squandered an 21-point lead against the Tigers, Georgia’s performance against Tennessee showed why it’s are regarded as the country’s most complete team.
Tennessee entered its game against Georgia leading the country in total offense (553 yards per game) and points (49.4 per game), but the Volunteers mustered just 289 yards and 13 points — with their lone touchdown coming in the final five minutes.
Georgia ranks second nationally in scoring defense (10.78 ppg) and is tied for fourth in total defense (265.6 ypg), sixth in rushing defense (86.4 ypg) and tied for sixth in first downs allowed (126).
On offense, Georgia is first in red-zone scoring percentage (.980), third in total offense (514.2 ypg), 10th in passing offense (320.2 ypg) and 11th in scoring offense (40.1 ppg).
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett has completed 67.8 percent of his passes for 2,606 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions.
Tight end Brock Bowers has 34 receptions for 574 yards with three touchdowns for Georgia, while Ladd McConkey has 38 catches for 507 yards and three touchdowns. Kenny McIntosh has been a threat out of the backfield with 31 receptions for 322 yards and a score in addition to rushing for 384 yards and six scores on 79 carries.
Daijun Edwards is averaging 5.6 yards per carry, having rushed for 486 yards and seven touchdowns on 87 carries.
Mississippi State coach Mike Leach, asked what it would take to beat the nation’s top-ranked team, said, “Focus on what you do and have discipline. The hardest thing is to get the message to everyone. It’s easy to say it, but everyone has to buy it and believe it. Just worry about what you do, worry about your job.”
Mississippi State’s defense, which features cornerback Emmanuel Forbes and his SEC-high five interceptions, has given up at least 24 points in five of six league games this season.
However, Mississippi State has been much better on offense.
Behind Will Rogers, who has completed 68.3 percent of his passes for an SEC-leading 2,912 yards and 26 touchdowns against just five interceptions, Mississippi State is eighth in passing offense (325.6) and 11th in red-zone scoring percentage (.926).
Rara Thomas has 36 receptions for 540 yards and five scores for Mississippi State. Dillon Johnson (71 carries, 406 yards, 3 TDs) and Jo’quavious Marks (77 carries, 357 yards, 7 TDs) lead an improved rushing attack.
“They’re really gashing people running the ball this year,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “I think that’s the biggest difference — they are committed to running the ball and being physical up front.
“People have the wrong demeanor when they go to play this team that, ‘Oh, man, I’m going to go out here and pass rush and get all these sacks.’ They’re not going to let you do that.”
Georgia has won 12 of the past 13 meetings between the teams, including a 31-24 home win in the latest matchup, in 2020.
–Field Level Media