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And now the countdown can finally begin. There was only one possible scenario where No.1 L.S.U. (13-0) wasn’t going to go to the B.C.S. national championship game in New Orleans. Experts believed they would have to be absolutely destroyed by 14th ranked Georgia (10-3) in Saturday’s SEC title game.
Instead, L.S.U. won the game 42-10, clinching the team’s first conference championship since 2007. Most went with the assumption that a close loss would not keep the Tigers out of the championship game. However, a victory ensures that they will be playing their final game for the top prize.
Despite the lopsided final score, Georgia came to play in the first half, leading 10-0 early on with an outstanding defense. The Bulldogs did not allow L.S.U. any first downs, forcing seven consecutive three and outs. L.S.U. became the first SEC team since 2001 to not convert any first downs over the first 30 minutes of a game. Georgia manhandled them, allowing a mere 12 yards of total offense during that stretch.
But the Tigers received a spark from a familiar name toward the end of the first half. Cornerback Tyrann Mathieu returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown with less than six minutes remaining in the second quarter to finally get L.S.U. on the board at 10-7.
The “Honey Badger” picked up where he left off last week against Arkansas, when he also returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown. His efforts brought L.S.U. right back into the game. “My teammates love the name, and I think it depicts me on the field,” said Mathieu. “I just go with it. My teammates do a great job having my back. Anything I can do to help those guys, lift their spirits, I’ll do it.”
Receiver Tavarres King dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone on the opening drive. The Bulldogs then recovered an onside kick but received zero points from it. Freshman receiver Malcolm Mitchell dropped a pass inside the ten with nothing but green in front of him. Georgia then missed a 45-yard field goal attempt.
The Bulldogs also dropped an easy interception in the first half, while L.S.U. forced a turnover to start the second half after Aaron Murray fumbled on a scramble at his 26, becoming a touchdown with just two plays. Running back Kenny Hilliard ran it in from 15 yards out to give L.S.U. its first lead at 14-10.
Hilliard had three touchdowns – two rushing and one receiving. By the time he scored the third, the Tigers had pulled away at 28-10. L.S.U.’s defense gave up no points in the second half, becoming just as dominant as Georgia’s defense in the first half. Aaron Murray went just 16-40 with two interceptions and one touchdown, passing for 163 yards. The run game was progressively subdued as the team accumulated only 34 yards on the day.
Jordan Jefferson threw the ball 13 times and completed five passes for L.S.U., throwing for 30 yards and one touchdown. However, his ground attack made up for it completely, totaling 207 yards. Once again, L.S.U.’s ability to run and stop the run put the team unmistakably ahead of the competition.
With the regular season finally over, the popular consensus is L.S.U. and Alabama have established themselves as the best two teams in the nation. The only question that still remains is whether or not the BCS will vote two teams from the same conference to play each other for the national title.
“I would certainly understand if college football decides it should be two SEC teams playing for the national championship. It’s a very special conference with very special teams,” said L.S.U. coach Les Miles.
We’ll just have to wait and see.