Bulldogs' surge on offense is good sign

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BATON ROUGE, La. --- So much for the power of Southeastern Conference defenses, at least for this week.

Saturday was a display of what the top-tier offenses from this defense-dominant conference can do -- and maybe served as an advance screening of next weekend's showdown between Florida and Georgia.

The Gators set the pace with a 63-5 rout of Kentucky early Saturday afternoon, only to see Georgia and LSU respond with the highest-scoring game involving an SEC team this season.

In the Bulldogs' 52-38 win at Tiger Stadium, the teams combined for 90 points and 940 yards of total offense -- surprising offensive totals in a game many believed would be a defensive struggle.

"It's pretty shocking to hear that," Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran admitted when told of the numbers.

Yet maybe it's not as surprising as it seems on its face. While penalties and turnovers have cost the Bulldogs points in a few recent scoring opportunities, Georgia's offense has mostly been moving the ball with ease in recent weeks.

On Saturday, the Bulldogs were a perfect 3-for-3 on scoring chances inside the LSU 20 -- an area where they had sometimes struggled in recent wins over Tennessee and Vanderbilt -- and also made big things happen from long distance.

"It's hard against any defense, especially a defense like LSU, to drive the field, chip away play by play," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "You've got to have big plays if you want to score a lot of points and we were able to do that today."

Did they ever, and just in time. The Bulldogs can only benefit from the confidence-building success they enjoyed scoring points against LSU with a meeting against Florida on deck. Florida, the SEC's highest- scoring team, posted its third 50-point outing of the season Saturday.

"There's a bunch of great skill players in this league and some offenses that are starting to click," quarterback Matthew Stafford said.

All the scoring, though, raises the question whether the defense-first reputation the league has developed still applies.

Statistically speaking, it still seems to. Seven SEC teams entered the weekend ranked among the nation's 25 best scoring defenses, while only Florida ranked among the top 25 scoring offenses.

And yet some of the point totals being hung on SEC defenses lat Georgia and LSU traditionally rank among the top defenses, not only in the conference but in the nation, but Saturday's meeting felt much more like a freewheeling Pac-10 game than one from the smashmouth SEC.

"It's crazy. Sometimes games happen like that," Stafford said.

There's more to it than that, though, at least in Georgia's case. Saturday was a sign that the steps the Bulldogs began taking in the weeks since a disappointing performance against Alabama were significant.

"I thought we made a statement," offensive lineman Clint Boling said. "I thought we did a good job playing and we've just got to keep it up next week against Florida."

Georgia's hopes of winning the division title might depend on it.

Reach David Ching at david.ching@onlineathens.com.


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