Battle of top 10 teams - LSU vs. Georgia

Saturday afternoon in Tiger Stadium, the LSU Tigers will open Southeastern Conference play against defending conference champion Georgia in what will be the first true test of the season for both squads.<br><br> While Tiger fans were expecting a more competitive game against Arizona, victories against Louisiana-Monroe and Western Illinois were a forgone conclusion.

While the game against the Bulldogs will be the conference opener for LSU, Georgia opened SEC play last week with a convincing 31-7 victory over South Carolina. Junior wide receiver Reggie Brown caught seven passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns in the Bulldogs victory over the Gamecocks.


A 2002 first-team, all-SEC and SEC Championship Game MVP, David Greene leads a high-powered Georgia offense that averages over 440 yards 30 points per game. The junior quarterback from Snellville, Ga. has rewritten the Bulldog record books holding school records for most passing yards by a freshman (2,789 in 2001) and a sophomore (2,924 in 2002).


Looking to continue this record pace, Greene is off to a solid start through the first three games of the season. So far he is 49-of-72 for 678 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.


Behind Greene is the versatile D.J. Shockley. The 6-1 Shockley has proven to be an effective weapon in Mark Richt's offense in all aspects. He has thrown for 66 yards on 6-of-13 passing, has rushed for 77 yards on nine carries and a touchdown, and has caught a pass.


After rushing for just 45 yards on five carries in the season opener against Clemson, redshirt freshman Michael Cooper (5-11, 223) has emerged as the top back for the Bulldogs. Cooper has 217 yards this season on 31 carries and has scored three touchdowns. Over his last two games, Cooper is averaging a mind-boggling 6.6 yards a carry.


Junior Ronnie Powell provides Georgia with a very solid number two punch alongside Cooper. Through three games, the Jacksonville, Fla. native has ran for 114 yards on 28 carries and has one touchdown.


At wide receiver, junior Fred Gibson status is questionable heading into the game against the Tigers. The Bulldog wideout re-aggravated a hamstring injury in the first quarter against South Carolina and was unable to return.

When healthy, Gibson has been one of the Greene's favorite targets this season as he has 10 catches for 20 yards and a touchdown.


If Gibson is not 100-percent Brown emerges as the Bulldogs top receiver. Through the first three games, Brown is Georgia's leading receiver with 215 yards on 15 catches for two touchdowns. Seniors Damien Gary and Michael Johnson have also had solid seasons thus far. Gary has eight catches for 92 yards and Johnson has totaled six grabs for 85 yards.


On the offensive line, the Bulldogs are perhaps the youngest team in the conference, if not the country. Losing all five starters from last season and having no seniors or juniors on the 2003 squad, the Bulldogs will rely on a redshirt freshman and four sophomores to protect Greene.


While the Georgia line is young, they are not lacking size as tackle Daniel Inman (6-7, 321), guard Josh Brock (6-3, 284), center Russ Tanner (6-4, 290), guard Bartley Miller (6-4, 304), and tackle Max Jean-Giles (6-4, 348) look to impose their will on the LSU defense.


Boasting one of the youngest offensive line's in the country, the Bulldogs may have one of the best units on the other side of the line as 2002 SEC Defensive Player of the Year David Pollack (6-3, 278) leads the Georgia defensive front.


Named first-team all-American by the Associated Press as well as the Football Writers Association of America, Pollack is coming off an outstanding 2002 season in which he led the conference in sacks with 14 and totaled 102 tackles, including 23.5 for loss. While Pollack mans one end of the line, junior Robert Geathers (6-3, 270) will anchor the other.


In the middle, the Bulldogs are led by Kedric Golston and Ray Gant.


Golston (6-4, 295) is coming off a 2002 season that saw him earn freshman all-America honors. Backing up

Golston is another 2002 freshman all-American in Darrius Swain (6-2, 325).


As with the offensive line, the Bulldogs must replace all three starters at linebacker. Junior Arnold Harrison (6-3,

224) is listed as the starting Sam linebacker with sophomore Odell Thurman (6-1, 225) slated to start at the

Mike. Sophomore Tony Taylor (6-1, 220) is at Will.


The strength of the Bulldog defense is the secondary. Heading into the 2003 season, this veteran group has combined for 72 career starts.


At the cornerback position, senior Bruce Thornton (5-11, 195) has emerged as the starter with Decory Bryant (5-11, 195) on the other side.


Redshirt sophomore Thomas Davis, who made four starts last season moving between linebacker and safety, is the starter at free safety. Sean Jones moves into a role as a rover after playing free safety last season.

On special teams, the Bulldogs turn to redshirt freshman punter Gordon Ely-Kelso. Third-team all-American Billy Bennett gives the Bulldogs a solid place-kicker. The senior is 7-of-8 on field goals this season and a perfect 9-of-9 on extra points.

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