ATLANTA (AP) -- LSU had to go on the road to win the Southeastern
Maybe the Tigers will get to stay at home to play for the
No. 3 LSU made an emphatic case to play in the Sugar Bowl,
routing fifth-ranked Georgia 34-13 Saturday night for the Tigers'
second SEC title in three years.
The Bulldogs were playing just an hour's drive from their
campus, cheered on by a crowd that appeared to be three-fourths red
and black. At the end, most of the Georgia fans were gone.
The gold-and-purple contingent hung around, chanting "Sugar
Bowl! Sugar Bowl! Sugar Bowl!" The national title is supposed to
be decided in New Orleans -- about an hour's drive from LSU's Baton
Rouge campus -- on Jan 4.
"I'd like to see us have the opportunity to play for a national
championship," coach Nick Saban said. "I think our team deserves
that. We've taken care of the business we could take care of."
The Tigers (12-1) might just get a chance to win it all after a
wild day that no one could have predicted.
No. 1 Oklahoma, the dominant team in the country all season, was
routed by Kansas State 35-7 in the Big 12 championship game. No. 2
Southern Cal rolled to a 52-28 victory over Oregon State to finish
the regular season.
Now, a BCS nightmare: three teams with one loss, only two spots
available in the Sugar Bowl.
"If we had not lost that one game, we wouldn't have the problem
we have right now," Saban said. "We believe in the system and we
will live with the system. It's probably not a perfect system.
Until we have a playoff, which I've never been in favor of, we'll
probably never know who the best teams are."
LSU did all it could, beating Georgia (10-3) for the second time
this season. This one was much easier than the first meeting, a
17-10 thriller in Baton Rouge that wasn't decided until Matt Mauck's 34-yard touchdown pass to Skyler Green with 1:22 remaining.
The tone was set when freshman Justin Vincent took a
routine-looking handoff and didn't stop running until he had an
87-yard touchdown run just 10 minutes into the game.
If the Georgia players had a vote, there's no doubt who they
"They came in here and beat us pretty handily," Bulldogs
safety Sean Jones said, "and we're not a slouch or anything."
Vincent was the MVP, setting a championship game record with 201
yards rushing. He also had a 62-yard run -- breaking two tackles,
faking out two other defenders -- and finished off the Bulldogs with
a 3-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.
LSU built a 17-0 lead about 5½ minutes into the second quarter.
At that point, the Tigers had 196 yards, Georgia minus-8.
LSU finished with 293 yards rushing and outgained the Bulldogs
"We just wanted to go out there and dominate," Vincent said.
While the freshman stood out, just about everyone contributed.
Matt Mauck, the surprise MVP of LSU's victory in the 2001
championship game, threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Michael Clayton.
Lionel Turner tipped a pass to himself and returned the
interception 18 yards for the Tigers' sixth defensive touchdown of
the season. LSU also had a safety, tackling Georgia punter Gordon Ely-Kelso in the end zone after he bobbled a snap.
The kicking game provided the only troubling moments for LSU.
Chris Jackson had two kicks blocked and missed an extra point. He
was replaced by Ryan Gaudet, who was perfect the rest of the way on
two field goals and two conversions.
Georgia was denied its second straight SEC title and likely will
have to settle for a spot in the Capital One Bowl on New Year's
Day, or maybe even a return to Atlanta for the Peach Bowl on Jan.
"Right now, nobody knows where anybody is going," said
Bulldogs quarterback David Greene. "Obviously, we feel like we're
a better team than we showed out there."
Greene, who had gone three games without throwing an
interception, had an awful night against the fearsome LSU defense,
the stingiest in the country in points allowed. The Georgia
quarterback was picked off three times, sacked five times and
finished just 17-of-41 for 199 yards.
"It's the No. 1 defense in the country, and right now we're not
the No. 1 offense," Greene said.
He didn't have much help. Georgia managed only 50 yards rushing
and dropped several passes.
Billy Bennett kicked field goals of 51 and 49 yards, setting an
SEC record with 29 this season. He tried to fire up his teammates
and certainly stirred up the LSU crowd by warming up after halftime
while the Tigers' band was still on the field.
It didn't help.
The Bulldogs' most exciting moment came on a broken play. Reggie
Brown was hemmed up in the backfield trying to pull off a
double-reverse, turned the other way and wound up getting 35 yards.
A facemask penalty tacked on another 15 yards, and Georgia
finally reached the end zone on Greene's 18-yard pass to Ben
Watson. That brought the Bulldogs to 24-13 in the third quarter,
but LSU snuffed out any thoughts of a comeback.
"There's not much to say," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "We
just got whipped."
Mauck completed an 18-yard pass to Clayton, then hooked up with
Devery Henderson on a 33-yard pass play to the Georgia 5. Two plays
later, after the teams traded ends, Vincent trotted in for the
LSU won the SEC title in 2001 with an upset of Tennessee,
denying the Vols from playing for the national title. The Tigers,
for at least another day, are still alive.
"I really don't know how this helps us or hurts us," Saban
said. "I really don't understand all the formulas, how the points
are divvied up, who gets what for what.
"We only controlled what we could control."