ATLANTA — The iconic image of the SEC tournament game on Saturday wasn’t the LSU players standing there as Georgia State’s Chris Smith turned a blocked field goal into a touchdown for the Bulldogs. Not the triple tackle interception that bounced off the yellow helmet to Georgia’s waiting arm. It wasn’t any of the six Stetson Bennett-to-Brock Bowers passes, each one frustrating with its relentless precision.
The moment that summed up Saturday’s 50-30 blowout — and, in many ways, Georgia’s entire season — came just minutes before halftime. Jalen Carter, the 6-foot-3, 300-pound defensive lineman from Georgia, sprinted past the LSU defense, wrapped Tigers quarterback Jayden Daniels, and lifted him off the ground with one arm, like Parents pick up one unruly child and hold the other aloft, pointing their fingers up to signify an indelible, undisputed number one. 1.
For all the trophies and accolades the Georgia Bulldogs have collected over the past two seasons — 27 wins in their last 28 games, players sent to the NFL, a national championship — head coach Kirbys Matt’s current line-up is not up to the task, with one goal left to reach.
“I don’t want a kid walking out of our program without earning an SEC championship ring for their career,” Smart said. “If we don’t get that, that’s going to happen.” Georgia’s last SEC title came in 2017, before most of its uniformed seniors arrived on campus.
It’s not necessarily a prime candidate for a disappointing game, but Georgia still has to deal with the complacency that comes with knowing that a conference title isn’t a make-or-break moment for playoff hopes. LSU’s luster was dimmed by last week’s loss to Texas A&M, but as coach Brian Kelly proved earlier this fall against Alabama, the Tigers even Capable of winning in elite competition.
Even so, the game had the feel of a Saturday September in Athens where little was at stake, with the Georgia faithful showing up with anticipation rather than anxiety. Mercedes-Benz Stadium is all red and black, just like the spring games in Georgia.
The Bulldogs won Saturday in a heartbreaking fashion that will keep coordinators up at night for the next few weeks trying to figure out what to do with a flying butcher offense and a python love-squeeze defense. .
“In our league, physical wins. You see, our league is different. Our league is tough. Our league is tough. Week in and week out, it’s very physical,” Smart said . “You win with tenacity on the road. I thought we won [Saturday] With some resilience. “
After the game, Smart could relax a bit — he joked that he held a Georgia quarterback record that Bennett would never match, 100 percent completion percentage, 1-for-1, and he even made a few shots on Bennett. Heisman’s praise runs counter to his usual team-first mentality.
But being a perfectionist, Smart also noticed some glaring flaws in Georgia’s game Saturday night. The Tigers threw for 502 yards against Georgia’s defense, and even though most of those yards came long after the game had started, the dip in coverage clearly pissed off the former defensive back.
“As time goes on, teams have poor defense, teams have poor screens. The defense usually deteriorates. It’s not the culture here. It’s not going to be accepted or tolerated, so we have to address it,” he said. Say.
Smart seemed to concede that the Bulldogs might have relaxed a bit in the second half, going 35-10 into the locker room. For LSU, QB Garrett Nussmeier replaced the injured Daniels in the second half. Nussmeier passed for 294 yards and two touchdowns as LSU outscored Georgia at halftime.
“We played a different style in the second half. It had some impact on us,” he said. “It’s just about playing better. We’ve got to impact the quarterback better.”
But defensive turnovers are understandable, if unacceptable, when you drop points on arm strength. Georgia is the fifth team to score 50 or more points in the SEC tournament; the other four — Alabama and Auburn State twice each — have appeared in the national title game.
That’s the ultimate goal, and it looks more likely to be achieved now than it has been all year. Georgia must now sit and wait for the final seeding list from the playoff committee, but unlike most other teams in the playoff mix, the Bulldogs make the committee’s job easier. The final opponent and position are uncertain, but Georgia should be at the top of the list. 1, and will go on to win back-to-back national championships overwhelmingly.
Anyone who has any doubts about Georgia’s dominance can always ask Mr. Trump. Carter.
Contact Jay Busbee at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jaybusbee.