Saturday belonged to LSU, not Georgia, and that fact was cemented when the normally sure-footed Rodrigo Blankenship missed a 37-yard field goal, his second of the day, to keep the Bulldogs’ deficit at 20-3 with 4:17 to play in the third quarter.
But if that wasn’t the play, this was: a weaving 71-yard completion from Joe Burrow to Justin Jefferson, a play that took the ball from LSU’s 20-yard line to the Georgia 9, clinched Burrow’s Heisman Trophy victory and may have just put the finishing touches on the Bayou Bengals’ argument to be the No. 1 seed when the final rankings come out Sunday morning.
Burrow iced the game when he hit Terrace Marshall, Jr., for a 4-yard touchdown on third-and-goal three plays after the completion. LSU’s Derek Stingley, Jr., snared his second interception of Jake Fromm on the next play from scrimmage, and three plays after that Burrow’s fourth touchdown pass put LSU up 34-3 with 45 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Tigers cruised to a 37-10 win, claiming their 12th SEC championship, its fifth of the championship game era and first under head coach Ed Orgeron. The last time LSU (13-0, 9-0 SEC) won the SEC, in 2011, the national title game was played at home, in New Orleans. The title game is on Bourbon Street again this January, and this time there will be no rematch with Alabama — or Georgia, for that matter.
The 2-year-old Mercedes-Benz Stadium has quickly become a house of horrors for the program just up the road. After losing the 2017 national title game to Alabama there, Kirby Smart‘s program has now dropped win-and-you’re-in games to close its past two regular seasons. Georgia (11-2, 7-2 SEC) will now head to its second straight consolation Sugar Bowl to play Big 12 runner-up Baylor.
But while Georgia’s season effectively ended Saturday, LSU’s is just beginning. The Tigers will presumably compete with Ohio State for the No. 1 seed and the right to play No. 4 Oklahoma back in Atlanta, and Burrrow will compete with the Ohio State trio of Chase Young, Justin Fields and JK Dobbins for the Heisman. Burrow’s closing argument: 28-of-38 for 349 yards with four touchdowns and no picks while rushing 11 times for 41 yards.
LSU never trailed, as Burrow found Ja'Marr Chase for a 23-yard touchdown to close an 8-play, 75-yard march on the Tigers’ first possession. He hit Marshall for a 7-yard score to put LSU up 14-0 with 12 seconds left in the first quarter, and would have had a 71-yard touchdown to Marshall to put LSU up 21-3 early in the second quarter, but Marshall dropped it.
For as bad as Saturday went, Georgia came out swinging, as Fromm had Tyler Simmons open for what could have been a 75-yard touchdown on the first play of the game, but Simmons dropped it. Then, facing a 3rd-and-9 at its own 44, Fromm had Demetris Robertson open but the pass skipped off the turf and the Bulldogs punted.
Fromm closed the day 20-of-42 for 225 yards with a touchdown (that came with the score 34-3) and two interceptions. The day momentarily looked much, much worse than his stat line, as LSU’s Grant Delpit sacked Fromm late in the second quarter and Fromm’s knee awkwardly twisted as he was yanked to the turf. Stetson Bennett IV entered to throw a 3rd-and-17 pass, but Fromm returned the next series and played the remainder of the game. No Bulldog rushed for more than 24 yards, and Georgia rushed for just 61 yards to LSU’s 134.