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Georgia, LSU Eerily Similar

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Zach Mettenberger faces his old team for the first time this Saturday in Athens. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images.
Zach Mettenberger faces his old team for the first time this Saturday in Athens. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images.

The Top 10 showdown between LSU and Georgia will feature near identical teams.

Each program's head coach is the longest tenured in its respective division. Representing the East, Mark Richt has been at Georgia since 2001; so has Missouri’s Gary Pinkel, but those Tigers just joined the league last year. In the West, no coach has been with their team longer than Les Miles, who took over LSU in 2005.

Both teams feature fifth-year senior quarterbacks that are in the top six in the nation in passing efficiency. The Bulldogs’ Aaron Murray leads the SEC and is fourth in the nation with a rating of 201.8. Zach Mettenberger is second in the conference and sixth in the country with a 193.6 rating. These two were teammates at one time when they redshirted at Georgia in 2009.

LSU and Georgia posses multiple running backs capable of pounding the ball between the tackles or sprinting the distance to the end zone on any given play. The Tigers boast Jeremy Hill, Terrence Magee, Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard. Meanwhile, the tandem of “Gurshall” guides the Bulldogs. Sophomores Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall have combined for 94 carries with 494 yards and five touchdowns. Not bad for a pass-first offense.

The similarities continue with both squads having to replace numerous starters on defense. Each team plays one of the more challenging schedules in the nation. That makes this game a must-win for both teams. A second loss would virtually eliminate Georgia from the national championship race and a loss by LSU would put them in a challenging predicament with games at Alabama and home against Florida and Texas A&M still looming.

So what are the matchups that will affect the outcome of this contest? The Bulldogs' high-powered offense versus the Tigers' fast, athletic defense will be fun to watch. Georgia’s offense averages 574 yards per game, good for second in the SEC and sixth in the nation. LSU’s defense is third in the league and 24th in the nation in total defense, allowing just 310 yards a contest. Something has to give. Look for Murray to test LSU’s secondary early and often to hit big plays and back the safeties away from the line of scrimmage to open holes for Gurley and Marshall in the running game.

LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron might take the opposite approach since his squad is facing their first true road test of the season. Running behind LSU’s massive offensive line and jumbo fullback J.C. Copeland will be a good way for the Tigers to chew up some clock and set up the play-action pass. Cameron will use all his running backs to expose a defense that has struggled against the run. Georgia has allowed 143.3 yards per game on the ground; that ranks 50th in the nation.

Overall, this should be an excellent game between two evenly matched teams. Ultimately, this contest will come down to efficient quarterback play. Which signal caller makes the least mistakes and capitalizes the most on good field position should determine the outcome of this intense matchup.