Why LSU deserves to be big favorite in SEC title game

Should LSU really be laying a touchdown to Georgia in Saturday’s SEC championship game (4 p.m., CBS)?

Aren’t both currently ranked among the four best college football teams in the nation? Don’t the Bulldogs need the win more, as a second loss would likely drop them from playoff consideration? For goodness sake, isn’t the game being played in Georgia … at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta?

Through a week of media punditry, you’ve likely heard all of those reasons from prognosticators picking the underdog. Yet the market is aware of those items, and could still close at LSU -6¹/₂ or -7 pending game-day betting.

Let’s figure out why LSU is getting so much respect in the line. It’s not just because the Tigers are undefeated while Georgia was stunned in a home game by South Carolina. They have three “quality” common opponents in Auburn, Florida and Texas A&M (all rated in the top 20 by respected computer ratings and market Power Ratings). LSU’s stats were much more impressive in those litmus tests.

Versus Auburn, Florida and Texas A&M:

  • LSU won total yardage by a combined 1,572 to 913. That’s more than 200 yards per game in yardage differential. And, that stunning offensive total isn’t the result of one super-game and a couple of generic efforts. LSU topped 500 total yards versus all three.
  • Georgia outgained those same opponents 909 to 880, losing the total-yardage category twice. The Bulldogs averaged just 303 offensive yards per game.

In fairness, it’s not a completely pure sample. LSU played all three games at home. Georgia visited Auburn and played Florida on a neutral field. But that’s not enough to erase the massive difference in production.

LSU is about a touchdown favorite because those factors pointing to Georgia helped reduce what might have been an even bigger point spread.

And we’re not even talking about the most impressive win this season by either team. LSU went to Tuscaloosa and beat Alabama, 46-41, once again topping 500 yards of offense against a quality opponent.

How Georgia can cover, or even win outright: The Bulldogs must impose their will at the point of attack, using their running backs to grind clock and shorten the game. Likely Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow can’t light up the scoreboard for LSU watching from the sidelines. It would sure help the underdogs’ cause if the Tigers come in overconfident, or get distracted by the dome din.

How LSU can win big: If LSU forces Georgia to play from behind, the Bulldogs are likely to implode. Georgia’s passing offense ranks only 76th nationally according to cfbstats.com. Take that approach out of its comfort zone, and interceptions or fumbles from sacks become much more likely. Imagine what Burrow can do getting field-position breaks.

This all sets up a volatile choice for bettors. The game could miss the spread by double digits in either direction. Analyze all angles before you bet.

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