After LSU defeated Georgia twice last season on the way to a share of the national championship, Georgia fans, players and coaches have looked forward to the rematch. The moment has arrived.
Georgia is 3-0 and ranked fourth in both polls. LSU is 3-1 and ranked 13th. Let's get it on.
"It's a big game," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "We can't deny that it's such a big game. Our fans are excited. I'm sure our players are excited. Everybody's going to be excited. LSU will be excited about it too.
"These are the kinds of games that guys come to Georgia for, come to LSU for. The national exposure, the big-game atmosphere with so much on the line in the league -- it's what it's all about."
For the Bulldogs to beat the Tigers, they'll have to play better on offense than they have in three previous games this season. They'll also have to protect quarterback David Greene a lot better than they did last year against LSU, when the Tigers sacked Greene 10 times, intercepted him five times and deflected 10 passes -- including several near the line of scrimmage -- in two games.
"He's smart. He's not going to make a lot of mistakes. In my mind, you've got to get pressure on him, because if you don't, he's going to pick you apart," defensive end Marcus Spears told the Athens Banner-Herald. "That's the thing about him. He's a NFL-type quarterback. You have to play smart and get in his face.
"We need to force him to move out of the pocket. We can't have him taking those five-step drops. That's the main thing with any quarterback, but with (Greene) it's especially true."
The presence of freshmen running backs Danny Ware and Thomas Brown offers more of a running threat than the Tigers faced from Georgia last year, but Richt is also convinced the pass protection has improved this season. Georgia hopes to be able to rely on their best backfield pass blocker with the expected return of junior RB Tony Milton from offseason surgery, but the key to success starts up front.
"We're better than a year ago up front," Richt said. "I don't know if we're good enough, but we're better."
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Georgia has scored on all 12 of its trips in the red zone, but only six of those have been touchdowns. The Bulldogs scored TDs on only 51 percent of their red-zone possessions last year and wanted to improve on that stat this season. "You look back on the red zone the last two years, it's just the same thing over and over," coach Mark Richt said. "Plays have presented themselves and we haven't made them for whatever reason. We get the heebee jeebees down there."
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: In their most recent game, the Bulldogs allowed Marshall just 160 yards, including 37 on the ground, the lowest rushing total given up by the Georgia defense since last season's opener against Clemson. The defense carried the offense in the Marshall game, and until the offense improves the defense will have to continue to form the foundation for this team.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They definitely seem like they were coming from everywhere. They play kind of an unorthodox style of defense. It's not just cut and dry like you see with a lot of teams. There's a lot of movement and a lot of shifting and they play so many different types of coverages that it can make it difficult to attack them." -- Georgia QB David Greene, on LSU's defense.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: LSU at Georgia, Oct. 2 -- These teams met twice last year with LSU winning both games, 17-10 in Baton Rouge on Sept. 20 and then 34-13 in the SEC Championship Game on the way to a national championship. In both games, LSU proved to be more physical and dominant on the line of scrimmage, so the Bulldogs must change that to win this game.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: RBs Danny Ware and Thomas Brown -- The Bulldogs are depending on two true freshmen backs to carry the running load, and this young duo will be put to a whole new test against the LSU defense.
QB David Greene -- The offense has yet to click in three games this season. While that isn't the fault of just one player, there's no doubt Greene needs to do a better job of getting the offense moving in the right direction.
MLB Odell Thurman -- Thurman will return from a three-game suspension against LSU. Thurman made 125 tackles last season. "I think he's got his skills in pretty good shape," coach Mark Richt said, "and it will be nice for him to have a couple of weeks on the first game plan he'll be able to get in."
ROSTER REPORT: Last week's open date helped Georgia get some key players healthy, starting with true freshman RB Danny Ware, who would have been out with a bruised lung if the Bulldogs had played last week. Ware will move back into the starting lineup, backed by true freshman Tomas Brown and junior Tony Milton, who is returning from offseason leg surgery and offers Georgia the best help in pass protection. Meanwhile, Michael Cooper is slowed by a thigh bruise and Tyson Browning has fallen out of the starting rotation because of fumble problems. ...
Middle linebacker Odell Thurman will likely return to the starting lineup this week after missing the first three games due to a suspension for unspecified rules violations. The time off has given him extra time to prepare for LSU and given increased playing time to linebackers Jarvis Jackson, Danny Verdun Wheeler and Derrick White at both the middle and weakside spots. White, who started the season opener at middle linebacker before missing the past two games with a sprained ankle, will probably move to strongside linebacker and compete with Arnold Harrison for the starting job. Junior Jamario Smith, who has hurt by the flu over the past week, will likely backup Thurman at middle linebacker. ...
OG Josh Brock, who started 24 games the past two seasons, was originally expected to be back in time for the LSU game after offseason shoulder surgery, but he remains sidelined for at least another week. ... Backup QB D.J. Shockley hasn't seen much playing time this season, but coach Mark Richt has hinted that Shockley will play a more significant role against LSU. ...
All-American DE David Pollack is playing with a cast on his broken left thumb. So is DT Ray Gant, who suffered torn ligaments in his right thumb against South Carolina. ... Andy Bailey is off to a strong start in his first season as Georgia's kicker and leads the SEC in scoring with 27 points, but he was slowed last week by a strained groin from kicking too much.