Before the season, many pundits said LSU was an afterthought, a team destined for a Cotton Bowl berth. There was no talk of a national championship. Five SEC teams were ranked ahead of the Tigers.
Now, after a 4-0 start and wins over Auburn and TCU, the Tigers are ranked No. 6 and back in the national title conversation. But the real barometer will come this weekend when LSU visits Georgia for a top-10 matchup "between the hedges."
“You choose to come to LSU to look forward to playing in a game between the hedges, nationally ranked,” coach Les Miles said. “Our guys are looking forward to it. We know it’s going to be a great environment. We’ve been there before. We’ll do our part to prepare to give us all a great game.”
For LSU, the matchup will be its first true road game of the season, and the Tigers fully expect a raucous crowd inside Sanford Stadium on Saturday. It won’t be a “blackout” according to Georgia coach Mark Richt, but it will still be unlike any environment this LSU team has seen to this point.
The Tigers do have recent success on their side. They blew out Georgia, 42-10, in the 2011 SEC championship game, and back in 2009, they won their last trip to Athens thanks to a late touchdown run from Charles Scott. They’re 7-6 all-time when playing at Georgia.
The game will be extra special for LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger. He began his career at Georgia, and he returns as one of the most improved players and top signal-callers in the conference. The senior has thrown for over 1,000 yards with 10 touchdowns and just one interception through the first four games.
He has not forgotten his past, though. His mother, who works in the UGA athletic office, is a daily reminder of where he came from.
“I’m told that Zach’s mother was given the week off,” Miles joked. “We were really kind of hoping that we’d get the call sheet, several of the other key pieces of information, but Mark [Richt] kind of knew that we needed to get that done.”
All joking aside, it’s a big game for Mettenberger. He has improved drastically since last year, but how he responds on the road against an elite team will be key for LSU in Saturday’s game. He has plenty of help in the form of Jeremy Hill, Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, but he’s still the one directing this offense.
If the Tigers survive the trip to Georgia and Mettenberger wins in his homecoming, they go from being in the BCS conversation to being a potential front-runner.