Winning the SEC championship game Saturday guarantees Georgia a return trip to the College Football Playoff semifinals and a relative home game for the chance to play for the national title for the second time in as many seasons.
But the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs balance that forward glance with the reality check of what could happen if No. 14 LSU pulls the upset at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta to rearrange the final CFP rankings.
“There’s no thought of the next step,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “There’s such a long break between this step and next step. This is the culmination of a season. The next opportunity, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
The Bulldogs (12-0, 8-0 SEC) haven’t lost since the 2021 SEC Championship game, when Alabama needed a win to reach the semifinals and walked away with a 41-24 victory over Georgia.
LSU won five games in a row and climbed to No. 5 in the CFP rankings before losing to Texas A&M last week. The Tigers lost to Florida State in their season opener and to Tennessee on Oct. 8, then 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.
Smart said the Tigers are more than capable of fitting the bill as spoilers. LSU’s marquee win this season was a 32-31 overtime thriller on Nov. 5 that sent Alabama into the national title picture periphery.
“They got a lot of talent, a lot of really fast, athletic players,” Smart said. “The skill level on both sides of the ball for them, great size, great speed. They got one of the most physical offensive lines we’ve played.”
Georgia has a lot of talent even after losing several starters to the NFL draft. The Bulldogs are No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense at 11.33 points per game and have won every game this season by at least a touchdown. The Bulldogs are giving up 2.97 yards per carry and are second in the nation with 79.5 rushing yards per game allowed.
The Tigers avoided a change at quarterback this week despite starter Jayden Daniels being banged up by the Texas A&M defense.
“He’s good to go,” Kelly said of Daniels, an Arizona State transfer who has 15 touchdowns and two interceptions this season.
LSU coach Brian Kelly, formerly of Notre Dame, faces Kirby Smart for the third time and is 0-2. This is the fifth time Georgia and LSU are meeting for the SEC title.
“We’re going to play a physical football team that has the style of its head coach. They’re going to play great defense. They’re going to be physical on both sides of the ball,” Kelly said. “I mean, everything’s going to come very difficult. Nothing’s going to be easy. You’re going to have to earn everything. Quite frankly, that’s the exciting part about it. You know what you’re going to get. … It doesn’t get any better than this.”
–Field Level Media