In arguably the biggest game of the season for No. 6 Louisiana State, head coach Les Miles will look to control emotions from elevating too high when they travel to Athens to face No. 9 Georgia.
“You want to make sure that you describe practice where it’s practice and not the game,” Miles said during Wednesday’s Southeastern Conference teleconferences. “We try to make sure that there’s a comfort in our preparation so we’re not overly aggressive or anxious to get to the game. We know that the game will be there when we get there. We just want to make sure that we’re ready on Saturday. We don’t need to be ready on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.”
The atmosphere of Sanford Stadium will pose a challenge for Miles’ players, especially in communication. One of his focuses this week has been to eliminate as many non-football factors as possible.
“I think the team that goes on the road and wins generally brings the best team with them,” Miles said. “They’re guys that have had experience in that environment and understand it and look forward to going in there and doing the things that they came to do, really focused on their assignments, their techniques, not going to be distracted by noise or band or a different stadium.”
In the matchup against the Bulldogs, Miles acknowledged all three phases of the game will have to be fine-tuned if his team expects to win.
“Each phase, offense, defense and special teams, has to play well enough to win the game,” Miles said. “Again, it’s a team issue and sometimes they need the three-and-out when you need the three-and-out. That is as important, playing timely and understanding that there are key pieces in the game… Those units that understand that, they play best.”
Miles addresses Georgia’s offense
Averaging 574 yards per game going into the weekend, Georgia’s offense will be a handful for the LSU defense.
“They can attack you in a number of different ways,” Miles said. “They play a lot of pro-style, but they throw it very effectively out of it. There’s different things that different guys do, personnel [is] very important.”
Although both teams run a pro-style offense, Miles admits Georgia’s skill players allow for a more expansive package than his own.
“It’s a very diverse package,” Miles said. “It’s not what you would say just a traditional run-of-the-mill two-back offense it is. They have all the ways to attack you that anybody would want out of their personnel groups.”
One of the more challenging options Georgia’s offense offers is running back Todd Gurley. Gurley has 377 yards and four touchdowns on the season and has yet to be held without a touchdown in a game this season.
“He’s very good, very fast, very good sized, runs with his eyes well,” Miles said. “They use him extremely well [and have a] big offensive line that gets him to a spot and then he seems to make people miss and runs with power. A very, very talented back.”
Before LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger landed with the Tigers, his journey took him through Athens.
After redshirting in the fall of 2009, Mettenberger got in legal trouble and was kicked off of Georgia’s roster. For the first time since being kicked off the team, Mettenberger will stand on the sidelines in Sanford Stadium.
“I think he’ll certainly understand that [the emotions are] there,” Miles said. “In the same thing this game’s bigger than his emotion, it’s more important than whether it’s my personal needs or any one player’s personal needs, we have to go in there as a team and play well.”
Mettenberger ranks eighth in the country in quarterback rating, according to ESPN.com. After throwing 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2012, he has thrown for 10 touchdowns and just one interception through four games this season.
“He’s played well,” Miles said. “He continues to develop and that’s going to continue, it’s his responsibility.”
In a game that will have personal and emotional ties, Mettenberger won’t be asked to do more than he has to.
“This is a game where it’ll be fortunate to have a very quality team that’s going with him,” Miles said. “All he has to do is play quarterback, we’re not looking for anything more or less than the guy that we’ve seen here for the last four games. Take some pressure off, just go in there and relax and do those things that we ask him to do.”