Chick-fil-A Bowl Preview
Atlanta, GA - A rough season that ended with five losses in its final eight games has left LSU as the first defending national champion to play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Judging by how the Tigers' opponent for the game closed the season, LSU needs to get over its disappointment quickly.
The Tigers face a tough matchup Dec. 31 in the Georgia Dome when they take on No. 14 Georgia Tech, which comes in as one of the hottest offensive teams in the country.
Oddsmakers from Online Sportsbook Sportsbook.com have made Georgia Tech –4 point spread favorites for the Chick-fil-A Bowl against LSU. Current College Fooball Public Betting Information shows that 75% of more than 3,659 bets for this game have been placed on the Georgia Tech -4.
LSU (7-5) got off to a 4-0 start this year after going 12-2 and routing Ohio State in the BCS title game last season, but problems quickly became apparent after that. The Tigers' first loss came by a 51-21 score against then-No. 11 Florida on Oct. 11, and the season went downhill from there.
The Tigers gave up 52 points in a defeat to then-No. 9 Georgia two games later, and ended up allowing 250 points over their final eight games - just 29 less than they gave up in all of 2007.
"Obviously, it was a tough way to end the season, but this is an outstanding bowl to go to," LSU coach Les Miles told the school's official Web site. "It will be on national television on New Year's Eve. It has no competition for air time so a lot of America will be watching the game. It's a tough matchup; Georgia Tech is a tough team ? they had over 400 yards rushing against Georgia.
"I think it's going to be a really outstanding game, but I feel really confident that our team is going to step up and play really well and be really motivated to play this game."
Miles has already taken notice of the eye-opening performance by the Yellow Jackets (9-3) in their regular season finale. Georgia Tech rolled up 409 rushing yards out of its triple-option offense against then-No. 13 Georgia - a popular preseason national championship pick that started the year ranked No. 1 - in a 45-42 road victory Nov. 29.
That win was Georgia Tech's third in four games - all against ranked opponents - and was the second straight contest in which the Yellow Jackets rushed for more than 400 yards. They had 472 in a 41-23 win over then-No. 23 Miami on Nov. 20.
Georgia Tech finished third in the nation with 282.3 rushing yards per game, and whether that powerful ground attack dominates once more will likely be what decides this game. LSU was 17th in the country in run defense at 105.7 yards allowed per contest.
"They have a pretty potent offense. The last time I've seen an option offense was at Parkview Baptist (high school)," Tigers linebacker Darry Beckwith said. "As far as a college football team running it, I have not seen it, and those guys have great athletes. When you get that type of system and type of offense with the athletes that they have at running back and quarterback, it can be dangerous."
The players that make it dangerous are ACC leading rusher and conference player of the year Jonathan Dwyer, who ran for 1,328 yards, 12 touchdowns and a 7.0 yard per-carry average, Roddy Jones (658 yards, 9.1 per carry) and quarterback Josh Nesbitt (631 yards, seven TDs).
"We realize LSU is going to be a formidable challenge," said coach Paul Johnson, the ACC coach of the year whose team was kept out of the league title game by a tiebreaker. "They're one year removed from being a national championship team. They've got a great tradition and a great history."
Johnson's team will try to wear down another tough SEC squad with its ground game and get a strong effort out of its defense, which allowed 18.8 points and 312.7 yards per game on the season but slipped a bit over the final five games. The Yellow Jackets gave up 29.0 points and 368.4 yards a contest over that span.
That could be problematic against LSU's typically deep roster of offensive talent, led by running back Charles Scott (1,109 yards, 15 touchdowns), receiver Brandon LaFell (903 yards, eight TDs) and multi-threat back Keiland Williams. The junior rushed for 375 yards, caught 11 passes for 124 yards and returned 13 kickoffs for 290 yards.
The bruising Scott, along with Williams and 5-foot-5 Trindon Holliday, make up a versatile and speedy LSU rushing game that utilizes direct snaps to running backs and averaged 167.3 yards on the year.
What LSU doesn't have is a veteran presence at quarterback. Miles kicked troubled Ryan Perrilloux - the MVP of last season's SEC title game - off the team during the offseason. That left sophomore Jarrett Lee, who's shown flashes of ability amid stretches of inconsistency, as the starter this season.
LSU will need to be at its best against a formidable opponent that will essentially be playing a home game. The Georgia Dome is less than two miles from Georgia Tech's home field, Bobby Dodd Stadium.
"I get to stay home for Christmas," Dwyer said. "I know my mom is very excited."
While Georgia Tech has lots of factors working in its favor, it's taking on a team that's been outstanding in recent bowls - especially this one, as LSU is 4-0 in the game.
The contest will be a rematch of the 2000 bowl - then still known as the Peach Bowl - that was won 28-14 by LSU, and the Tigers were also on the winning end of the biggest rout in the bowl's history, 40-3 over Miami three seasons ago.
That win was the first of three straight bowl victories for LSU under Miles. The Tigers, who beat Florida State in the first Peach Bowl in 1968, will be making their school-record ninth straight bowl appearance, while Tech will be playing in a bowl for the 12th consecutive year.
The teams' meeting in 2000 was their 18th overall, but first since 1963. The Yellow Jackets lead the series 12-6.
Chick-fil-A Bowl Public Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
LSU is 1-0 against the spread versus GEORGIA TECH since 1992
LSU is 1-0 straight up against GEORGIA TECH since 1992
1 of 1 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Chick-fil-A Bowl Key Player Injuries
[QB] Jordan Jefferson is expected to start - Nose - 11/23/08
[C] T-Bob Hebert is out for the season. - Knee - 10/23/08
[OT] Andrew Gardner expected to miss the rest of the season. - Shoulder -
[CB] Jerrard Tarrant has been suspended from the team. - Suspension - 07/08
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Posted: 12/16/08 4:30PM ET