SEC Championship

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No. 4 Georgia Bulldogs vs. No. 2 LSU Tigers

Venue/Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia
Time/TV: Saturday, Dec. 7, 4:00 p.m. ET
Line: LSU -7, Total 55.5

SEC Championship History

LSU (12-0 straight up, 7-5 against the spread) is back in Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game for the first time since 2011. The Tigers won the SEC West for the sixth time since the league split into divisions in 1992, going unbeaten in 12 games of an unforgettable regular season.

Senior quarterback Joe Burrow has been the catalyst, making himself tens of millions of dollars in the past three months. He’s the overwhelming favorite to win the Heisman Trophy at all books, and the grad transfer from Ohio State is the short ‘chalk’ to be the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft at some betting shops.

Burrow has completed 78.3 percent of his passes for 4,366 yards with an incredible 44/6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He’s also run for 248 yards and three touchdowns.

Burrow will lead LSU up against Georgia, which will be making its third consecutive trip to Atlanta for the first weekend of December. The Bulldogs are 3-4 SU and 5-2 ATS in seven all-time appearances in the SECCG, while LSU is 4-1 SU and 3-1-1 ATS in five trips.

This will be the fourth time these programs have met in this game. In 2003, LSU blasted UGA 34-13 as a three-point favorite. Two years later, the Bulldogs exacted revenge in a 34-14 victory as 2.5-point underdogs. Then in 2011, the Tigers recovered from a 10-0 deficit and exploded in the second half en route to a 42-10 triumph as 12.5-point ‘chalk.’

As of late Friday afternoon, most books had Ed Orgeron’s squad listed as a seven-point favorite with a total of 55.5. Georgia was +220 on the money line. For first-half wagers, LSU is favored by 3.5 points at most spots.

LSU has been a single-digit favorite only once this season, capturing a 45-38 win at Texas as a 6.5-point ‘chalk’ in Week 2. The Tigers own other notable scalps vs. Florida (42-28), vs. Auburn (23-20), at Alabama (46-41) and vs. Texas A&M (50-7). They’ve won nine of their 12 games by margins of at least 14 points. Eight of LSU’s victories have been by at least 21 points.

Orgeron’s bunch had no problem avenging last year’s 74-72 loss at Texas A&M in seven overtimes. When the Aggies took the field at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge last Saturday night, it got ugly in a hurry. LSU darted out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, led 31-0 at intermission and coasted into the winner’s circle.

The Tigers enjoyed advantages of 31-12 and 553-169 in first down and total offense, respectively. Burrow hit on 23-of-32 passes for 352 yards and three TDs without an interception. Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran for 87 yards and one TD on 18 attempts, while Ja’Marr Chase hauled in seven receptions for 197 yards and two TDs.

LSU is ranked second in the nation in total offense, passing yards and scoring with its 48.7 points-per-game average.

Chase has 70 catches and leads the nation in receiving yards (1,457) and TD catches (17). Justin Jefferson has 81 receptions for 1,092 yards and 13 TDs, while Terrace Marshall has 32 grabs for 456 yards and eight TDs. Marshall missed three games with an injury back in October.

Edwards-Helaire is tops in the SEC in rushing TDs (16) and third in rushing yards (1,233). The junior RB averages 6.8 yards per carry, and he also has 43 catches for 338 yards and one TD. True freshman Tyrion Davis-Price has 260 rushing yards, six TDs and a 4.6 YPC average.

Georgia (11-1 SU, 7-5 ATS) took its only loss in Week 7, dropping a 20-17 double-overtime decision to South Carolina as a 21-point home favorite. Since then, Kirby Smart’s team has won six games in a row while going 4-2 ATS.

UGA was in Atlanta this past weekend at Bobby Dodd Stadium, where it crushed Georgia Tech 52-7 as a 28.5-point road ‘chalk.’ The 59 combined points soared ‘over’ the 46-point total. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they saw true freshman WR George Pickens get ejected in the second half for fighting. Furthermore, star junior RB D’Andre Swift left the game with a shoulder injury and didn’t return.

Smart has downplayed the injury all week, and Swift has been listed as ‘probable’ since Monday. Whether Swift is 100 percent or can handle 15-20 touches vs. LSU remains to be seen. Pickens is suspended for the first half, which is even bigger news since WR Lawrence Cager is ‘out’ due to a sprained ankle sustained at practice the day before Thanksgiving.

Pickens has 33 receptions for 498 yards and six TDs, while Cager has made 33 catches for 476 yards and four TDs. These absences supply Georgia’s star junior QB Jake Fromm with an even greater challenge against LSU, especially in the first half without Pickens.

Fromm has dealt with the inconsistencies of a young and inexperienced group of wideouts all season long. It’s caused his numbers to go down compared to his first two years, but he’s still one of the nation’s best signal callers. Fromm connected on just 14-of-29 throws at Georgia Tech, but those completions produced 254 yards and four TDs without an interception.

Before leaving the game, Swift had 73 rushing yards on 10 carries. Brian Herrien had 46 rushing yards and one TD on eight totes. Pickens was ejected in a skirmish that occurred immediately after making a 47-yard TD reception. Tyler Simmons caught three balls for 52 yards and one TD.

UGA has seven of its games by margins of 21 points or more. The Bulldogs’ best victories are vs. Notre Dame (23-17), vs. Florida (24-17 in Jacksonville), at Auburn (21-14) and vs. Texas A&M (19-13). Since their loss came to the Gamecocks, who finished 4-8 and were playing their third-string QB for 2.5 quarters due to injuries, the Bulldogs have to beat LSU in order to make the College Football Playoff.

For the season, Fromm has completed 62.0 percent of his passes for 2,385 yards with a 21/3 TD-INT ratio. All three picks were made by South Carolina sophomore CB Israel Mukuamu.

Swift has run for 1,203 yards and seven TDs, averaging 6.2 YPC. He also has 21 receptions for 198 yards and one TD. If Swift is unable to perform to his elite standards due the shoulder issue, UGA should be fine. Herrien had 466 rushing yards, six TDs, a 4.9 YPC average, 13 catches, 87 receiving yards and one TD reception. Zamir White, a former five-star recruit, has run for 311 yards and a pair of scores, averaging 5.7 YPC.

Dominick Blaylock has 17 catches for 299 yards and five TDs, while Demetris Robertson has 26 receptions for 281 yards and three TDs.

Georgia is ranked fourth in the nation in total defense, 15th at defending the pass, second in run defense and second in scoring ‘D’ (10.4 PPG). This unit is led by junior safety Richard Lecounte, who has recorded 53 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, three fumble recoveries, three passes broken up, two forced fumbles and two interceptions for 71 return yards.

These teams met in Baton Rouge on Oct. 13 of last season. LSU smashed Georgia 36-17 as a seven-point underdog, and the 52 combined points inched ‘over’ the 50-point total. Burrow completed 15-of-30 throws for 200 yards, and he did damage on the ground with 66 rushing yards and two TDs on 13 attempts. Edwards-Helaire produced 145 rushing yards on 19 carries, while Jefferson had six catches for 108 yards.

Fromm struggled the entire game, connecting on just 16-of-34 passes for 209 yards and one TD. However, he was intercepted twice. Swift ran 12 times for 72 yards.

This is UGA’s first underdog spot of the season. During Smart’s four-year tenure, the Bulldogs have gone 6-2 ATS with three outright wins in eight games as ‘dogs.

Kickoff on Saturday is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. Eastern on CBS.

Bet on College Football Week 15

B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--The ‘over’ has hit in four straight Virginia games, with those combined scores reaching 69, 82, 61 and 69 points. The Cavaliers are 28.5-point underdogs in Saturday night’s ACC Championship Game against Clemson. UVA won the ACC Coastal for the first time in program history, rallying past arch-rival Virginia Tech to win a 39-30 decision in last Friday’s regular-season finale. The victory snapped a 15-game losing streak to the Hokies. As of late Friday afternoon, the total for Clemson vs. UVA was 57 points at most spots.

--This space is often extremely critical of some head coaches – and rightfully so! – for their incompetent clock-management decisions. On that note, let’s go out of our way to recognize Bronco Mendenhall for a stroke of brilliance when it came to “time and score” last week. With less than a minute remaining, UVA got a defensive TD to extend its lead from 33-30 to 39-30. This made it a two-possession game and sealed the deal. However, all quality coaches (and sharp bettors) are always thinking of worst-case scenarios that can create an unlikely result. The only way the Hokies were going to have a chance at a comeback was by blocking the PAT and returning it for a TD for two points. In order to avoid that nightmare scenario, Mendenhall sent the offense on the field and into Victory Formation to kneel on it. Hat tip to you, Bronco Mendenhall!

--Since losing a heartbreaker at home to Marshall, Florida Atlantic has won five games in a row by double-digit margins. The Owls are 4-1 ATS during that span. They’re eight-point home favorites vs. UAB in Saturday’s C-USA Championship Game in Boca Raton.

--I’m not “reporting” anything here; I’m simply making a couple of predictions. By Sunday afternoon (or night at the latest), the new head coach at Florida State will be Mike Norvell. Also, the new man in charge of the Arkansas Razorbacks will be Lane Kiffin. I’m 95-98 percent certain on those two calls. I’m much less confident in this one, but the thinking here is that UL-Lafayette’s Billy Napier will land the Ole Miss gig. As for Missouri, who knows? Citing sources, Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday that AD Jim Sterk presented Army’s Jeff Monken, Arkansas State’s Blake Anderson and La. Tech’s Skip Holtz as targets to the UM System Board of Curators, and some board members “aren’t thrilled with some of the choices presented as options.” To that, I say, “can you flippin' blame ‘em?!”

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.