War of words starting slowly for UGA, LSU

BATON ROUGE — Neither team had studied much game tape of the opposition by early Monday afternoon, but LSU and Georgia were already sizing each other up for Saturday’s SEC championship game.

Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones tossed out the first flare, saying in a teleconference he believes the Georgia defense is “just as good, if not better” than LSU’s.

The comment was immediately tweeted, and LSU’s resident conversationalist Tyrann Mathieu saw it. He was ready when reporters asked, but he wasn’t biting.

How hard was it for him not to tweet a response?

“Extremely tough,” he said with a laugh, “but I’ve got to keep my team first.

“He may have a point,” Mathieu said. “I know those guys are going to go out there and play hard. I know he’s going to go out there and play a little bit extra hard. It’s just about us playing our style of football.”

Mathieu¹s personal style is to play confident, and that means talking about it on the field. But he also has toned down his act, and both sides are playing the mutual respect card at this point. The No. 12 Bulldogs are decided underdogs to the No. 1-ranked Tigers (12-0) but are confident they can pull an upset.

“You have to have confidence in yourself,” LSU safety Eric Reid said in response to Jones comments. “That’s what has gotten them this far. They’ve won 10 games straight. They’ve got to have some kind of good defense. It¹s working for them, and we’ll see who has the better defense after this one.”

It’s actually close statistically. LSU is ranked No. 2 in the nation behind Alabama in total defense, allowing 248.8 yards per game. Georgia, which has played a less difficult schedule, is No. 5 at 271.1 yards. LSU is fourth nationally in rushing yards allowed per game (86.1), and Georgia is sixth (94.8).

LSU players have seen enough tape while preparing of other opponents to know about Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, who leads the SEC in pass efficency

(155.4) and touchdown passes (32). Murray, in turn, has seen the deep and talented LSU secondary. The Tigers have picked off 16 passes and have a plus-19 turnover margin

“It’s amazing, just how many plays they make,” Murray said. “You talk about Mathieu, you’ve got to worry about him on special teams. They’re great athletes.

“You put them in the category, when I was watching the film, of just athletes like Jarvis Jones on our team. They’re football players. They know how to go out there and make plays, and they’re exciting to watch.”

Jones, who was recruited heavily by LSU and leads the SEC with 19.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks, heads up Georgia’s 3-4 alignment. It will face an LSU rushing attack that has used four different players to keep the legs fresh late in the season.

Jones, who is from Columbus, signed with Southern California but returned to Georgia and sat out last season. He has obviously heard the talk about the Tigers defense, which has allowed only 12 touchdowns in 12 games.

“I mean, everybody praises LSU’s defense, but I think — I know — we’ve got a pretty good defense,” Jones said. “We’re not cocky at all. We’re just going to play. We do our job and get out on the field. We like having fun. We love playing football. We¹re aggressive. We play just as well as them.

“A lot of people don’t give us credit of how they play and how we play. I think we play two different styles. I think our defense is just as good as theirs, if not better.”

The challenge for LSU is a wide array of receivers that are nearly a match for the Arkansas group, plus perhaps the best tight end in the SEC, Orson Charles, who has 40 receptions for 530 yards and five touchdowns.

“They’re very talented and a very fast group,” LSU safety Brandon Taylor said. “A lot of people say Arkansas receivers are the fastest group in the SEC, but Georgia, they are very fast. I know (Tavarres King), I played against him my sophomore year, and he actually kind of got away from me that year, too. They actually have the most talented tight end in the SEC.”

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