Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Chik-fil-A Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. LSU


December 31, 2008 * 7:30 * ESPN
Georgia Dome * Atlanta, Georgia

LSU and Georgia Tech enter the Chick-Fil-A-Bowl after vastly different regular seasons. The Yellow Jackets, behind one of the best running attacks in the country, rolled up a lofty 9-3 record and a No. 15 ranking. The Tigers, who have been a powerhouse in recent years, lost five regular season games for the first time since 1993 and will likely finish out of the top 25 for the first time since 2002.

When Tech Has the Ball

Don't look for anything fancy from head coach Paul Johnson and his troops. The Yellow Jackets rank third in the nation rushing the ball and considering their success this year, there is no chance they will change anything. Sophomore Jonathan Dwyer has been the leader in the ground attack for Georgia Tech this season. He rushed for 1,328 yards with 12 touchdowns during the regular season. While Dwyer was the leader, freshman Roddy Jones also had a solid campaign (658 yards, four touchdowns). Sophomore quarterback Josh Nesbitt rushed for nearly as many yards (631) as he threw for (658) in 2008. He only threw two touchdown passes but scored seven times rushing the ball. When Tech has thrown the ball, sophomore Demaryius Thomas (36 receptions, 595 yards, three touchdowns) has been the primary receiver. For the LSU defense that ranks 17th in the nation against the run, it begins up front as senior Tyson Jackson (8.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks) and junior Rahim Alem (11 TFL, 8 sacks) will lead the charge. And expect defensive backs Harry Coleman (LSU's leading tackler), Danny McCray and Patrick Peterson to help in run support. Linebackers Darry Beckwith and Perry Riley were both Butkus Award finalists this season.

When the Bayou Bengals Have the Ball

LSU has more of a balanced attack on offense than Georgia Tech and junior Charles Scott is the Tigers answer to Jonathan Dwyer. He rushed for 1,109 yards with 15 touchdowns behind an offensive line anchored by All-American guard Herman Johnson. Freshman Jordan Jefferson (277 yards, three touchdowns) has been named the starter for the bowl game but the team's leading passer, freshman Jarrett Lee (1,873, 14 touchdowns, 16 interceptions) will be available. Whoever is under center, junior Brandon LaFell (61 receptions, 903 yards, eight touchdowns) will be their top target. Senior Demetrius Byrd (34 receptions, 503 yards) and junior tight end Richard Dickson (27 receptions, 274 yards) will also factor into the air attack. Georgia Tech is no slouch on defense. Led by seniors Michael Johnson (15 TFLs, seven sacks) and Daryl Richard (10 TFLs, four sacks) and sophomore Derrick Morgan (9.5 TFLs, seven sacks), Tech ranks 12th in tackles for loss and 18th in sacks in the country. Sophomore defensive back Morgan Burnett leads the nation in interceptions (seven) and will be a concern for LSU when they throw.

Final Analysis

Georgia Tech finished the season by dropping 40-plus points on both Miami (FL) and Georgia of the SEC. LSU lost three of their final four games and allowed over 30 points in three of them. You never want to count the Tigers out, but their defense has been an issue all season and the inexperience at quarterback has to be a concern as they are facing a Georgia Tech defense that ranks in the top 25 nationally.

LSU Tigers (7-5, 3-5)

Pass: Jarrett Lee – 1.873 yards, 14 TDs
Run: Charles Scott – 1,109 yards, 15 TDs
Catch: Brandon LaFell – 903 yards, 8 TDs

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (9-3, 5-3)

Pass: Josh Nesbitt – 658 yards, 2 TDs
Run: Jonathan Dwyer – 1,328 yards, 12 TDs
Catch: Demaryius Thomas – 595 yards, 3 TDs

The CFI Prediction: Georgia Tech 21, LSU 17

Photo Credit: SEC Sports Media, Georgia Tech Sports Information