Picks Column

I can’t believe it.

It feels like just yesterday we were heading to Orlando to watch the Gators take on Miami, and the regular season is already at an end.

Florida isn’t playing in the SEC Championship, so it’ll have to sit at home and wait on the results from Championship Week to find out its (likely New Year’s Six) bowl destination.

This also marks the final week of the alligatorSports picks column, however, so you can rest easy, reader. After this week, you don’t have to stomach this content for another eight-ish months.

But before we say goodbye for now, football writer Dylan Rudolph and Sports Editor Tyler Nettuno have their picks for the SEC title game between No. 4 Georgia and No. 2 LSU.

Georgia will win because…

 

The LSU Tigers has left a wake of exciting games and thrilling victories over top teams in their first undefeated regular season since 2011. Their run over big-name opponents like Alabama, Texas, Auburn and Florida has been one of the most compelling storylines of the year. 

But it ends in Atlanta. Because Georgia matches up with LSU better than any of them.

The Tigers rank second in the nation in passing offense behind only Washington State. They are led by Heisman hopeful quarterback Joe Burrow, who has thrown for 4,366 yards and 44 touchdowns. Not bad, but if one team has the answer for LSU's air raid offense, it's the Georgia defense that has led the way for the third consecutive SEC East appearance.

The Bulldogs rank 15th in pass defense, allowing just 186 yards a game through the air. In games where it holds opponents under 200 yards passing, Georgia has won by a combined margin of 169. The Bulldogs will look to curb LSU's spread offense to make the Tigers win on the ground, something it has not been forced to do much this year.

UGA, on the other hand, will run the ball at will behind junior running back D'Andre Swift and his 6.2 yards per carry and over 100 yards-per-game average. LSU's run defense has allowed over 100 yards rushing in eight of its 12 contests this season, including a 402-yard capitulation against Ole Miss on Nov. 16 in the high-scoring affair.

If Georgia can establish the run and keep the ball out of Burrow's hands, it should result in the No. 4-ranked Bulldogs back in the College Football Playoff.  

 

— Dylan Rudolph 

 

LSU (-7.5) will win because…

 

Its offense is just an unstoppable force. Quarterback Joe Burrow set the SEC record for single-season passing yards with 4,366 and has led the Tigers past three teams currently in the top 15. 

Georgia may present their toughest challenge yet, as the Bulldogs tout the nation’s fourth-ranked defense. The defense LSU has played that is most comparable to UGA’s — Auburn — held Burrow and the Tigers surprisingly in check, only allowing 23 points. Still, even the only team that had an answer to the LSU attack lost the game.

Georgia can only contain that offense for so long, and if this game turns into a shootout, it won’t have enough juice. The Tigers will pull away in the fourth quarter for a 10-point win.

 

— Tyler Nettuno

 

Now onto the picks…

 

In first at 73-38 is Tyler “Begrudged Champion of AP Poll Bracket” Nettuno, who for some reason beat out four Alligator sprots writers to be crowned champion of this semester’s office AP Poll. I can’t believe these fools chose you over Jordan Perez. I’m still shook. Although it is kind of ironic that a poll you hated so much for so long crowns you its champion. Smh. 

 

In second at 68-43 is Kyle “You’re Always On The Clock” Wood. If you missed Kyle’s Twitter announcement, he will be taking over for Tyler as sports editor this spring. So you’ll understand why we were all concerned that Kyle, while at midtown with some of the Alligator crew, didn’t want to talk about work. Oh, buddy. You’ll learn fairly quickly that your work as sports editor is never done until you hand it off to the next poor soul.

 

In third at 63-48 is Sam “Cool It With The Sentimentality” Campisano, who, during his last Alligator shift, spoke candidly about fond memories working at his beloved paper. Unfortunately, Sam wasn’t thinking about Mari, who has repressed her emotions for so long she forgot she had them. Mari was made uncomfortable by the bittersweet feelings she had after reading Sam’s goodbye column. For the sake of her health, take it easy, man.

 

Tied for fourth at 61-50 is Nick “COLLUSION?!?” De La Torre, who believes that Tyler’s unprecedented picks column success is the result of some funny business. What, Nick? Just because I see all the picks, organize them and write most of this column, you think I’m cheating? These fire picks are au natural, baby.

 

Tied with Nick is Zach “Strong Talent Evaluator” Goodall, who agreed with a post from the Jacksonville Jaguars about “starting a dialogue” that Josh Allen is better than Nick Bosa. Good take, Zach. The numbers don’t lie, regardless of what a certain alligatorSports staff member whose name rhymes with “Cari” may say.

 

Tied for sixth at 60-51 is Mark “Man With A Plan” Long, who said that fixing the Jaguars is as easy as adding three tight ends (including bringing back35-year-old Marcedes Lewis) and keeping Gardner Minshew at quarterback. Good thinking, Mark. If Tom Coughlin had thought of that, maybe he wouldn’t be on his way out.

 

Tied with Mark is Graham “What The Hell Is That?” Hall, who, for his “cheat meal” decided to eat a donut covered in cereal? Seriously, Graham? I mean, everyone needs a cheat day, but using it on a piece of fried bread covered with Cap’n Crunch and Fruity Pebbles? We’re legitimately concerned for your well-being.

 

In eighth at 59-52 is Dylan “Where’d You Go?” Rudolph, who pulled an “Aight, Imma head out” during his final night at The Alligator. Dylan left after about five minutes in the office, but it’s cool. We know that deep down, he’s going to miss us making fun of his favorite sports teams’ failures.

 

Tied for ninth at 58-53 is Brian “Mari, Ask What’s Up With Thayer Hall” Fox, who decided he didn’t want to get on coach Mary Wise’s bad side Friday night during the first round of the NCAA Tournament. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen? It’s just the fact their star player wasn’t on the court. Brian, it’s OK to be that reporter sometimes. And we’re sad you made Mari ask the tough question last night, even though she won’t be covering Florida volleyball anymore. She would have liked to leave the beat on a more positive note with Wise. 

 

Tied with Brian is Mari “We Know You Love Us” Faiello. As noted above, Mari is not the sentimental type. It’s why she couldn’t bring herself to shout out anyone currently on staff in her goodbye column. Don’t worry, Mari. We all know you’re going to miss seeing our smiling faces three nights a week (and judging our flaws with the AP Poll).

 

And in last at 56-55 is Edgar “Tough Ratio” Thompson, who simply pointed out on Twitter that both participants in last year’s Philly Special play against LSU (Feleipe Franks and Lucas Krull) are no longer with the team. Gators fans took this bit of trivia as some sort of shot at Dan Mullen, and ratioed Edgar accordingly. If it makes you feel better, Edgar, we disagree with most of those 75 angry fans in your mentions.