Like Cats and Dogs

College Football Preview: Week 14
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Dec. 2, 2005

By Jessica Garrison


As the granddaddy of conference football title games kicks off in the Georgia Dome on Saturday, No. 3 LSU and No. 13 Georgia will close the books on one of the most unusual seasons in SEC history and try to open the books on a trip to the displaced Nokia Sugar Bowl.


By most accounts, LSU was poised for a significant season. But when Hurricane Katrina all but decimated most of Southern Louisiana, Tiger Stadium became home to refugee football programs from college to the NFL and the Tigers themselves had to deal with the painfully close reality of the nation's worst natural disaster.


"I think there were times that the hurricane was forefront and something that we had to deal with on a daily basis," LSU coach Les Miles said. "As the state continues to rebuild and the peripheral issues continue to become more specific to individuals than our team, I think it has become less of a day-to-day issue. Certainly, it is something that will not be behind us for years."


Still the Tigers have managed an impressive season, at 10-1 and breathing down the necks of the nation's two undefeateds. After grinding out a 19-17 win against Arkansas in their final regular season game last weekend, LSU has won nine straight and is well prepared for all-too-familiar foe Georgia.


Even so, the Bulldogs won't be easy to shake. At 9-2, Georgia has relied on the strength and speed of quarterback D.J. Shockley, the SEC's top-rated passer with dangerous mobility.


"He's got a rocket for an arm," Miles said of Shockley. "He's got the ability to avoid the rush, run the ball and pick up some scramble yards. We need to make sure that we have containment, understand our rushing lanes, yet still pressure him."


Georgia's first loss this season came without Shockley - he missed the Oct. 29th 14-10 loss to Florida with a knee injury, and in his return -- Auburn used a last-second field goal to sneak past the Bulldogs, 31-30.


Shockley is well aware of his value to his team, as well as the stakes of his last chance at an SEC title.


"Being a starter and playing, it's going to be huge for me," Shockley said. "Since this is my senior season, I have looked at the Tennessee game as my last one, the Georgia Tech game as my last one, and now the SEC Championship game as my last one."


The Bulldogs are no stranger to the top of the SEC. They, like LSU, have played in three out of the last four conference championships, including a title win over Arkansas in 2002.


"We're just fighting like mad to get in it," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "We've been fortunate to be there three years. It's a lot more fun to be in it than not, and it's a lot more fun to win it than lose it. We've had a chance to win, lose and sit it out, and it's obvious that winning is the most fun."


For that wisdom the `Dogs have to look no further than their bitter 34-13 loss to LSU in the 2003 SEC title game. LSU was on its way to the national title and LSU running back Justin Vincent lit up the Bulldog defense for 201 yards and two touchdowns, earning MVP honors. While Vincent has yet to match the success of his freshman year, the Tigers are as formidable as ever, and Richt's squad will have plenty of defensive headaches beyond LSU's running game.


If Shockley can lead his team to the upset, the Bulldogs can quiet the Georgia Dome echoes of the Tigers' title win. LSU will be fighting to take its anything-but-average season one step further, to the bowl game that Katrina blew from New Orleans to the Georgia Dome.


Jessica Garrison is an Assistant Editor for She can be reached here with comments and questions.



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