For a team that has historically relied on its hard-nosed defense, LSU brings a surprisingly diverse offense into Sanford Stadium this weekend.

Led by senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger, the noted ex-Bulldog and prodigal son of Watkinsville, the sixth-ranked Tigers feature offensive weapons on the ground (sophomore running back Jeremy Hill) as well as through the air (wideouts Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, both returning starters). Even better for LSU, the unit has thrived under first-year coordinator Cam Cameron, whom many have credited for the team’s scoring revival.

And perhaps no one should feel more thankful than Mettenberger, who has completed 64.8 percent of his passes for 1,026 yards, 10 touchdowns and just one interception four games into the season, looking more comfortable as a passer than ever all the while.

“I’ve known Cam a long time, and I know that he’s a great teacher and a great quarterbacks teacher,” head coach Mark Richt said. “Sometimes a guy has a coach that may have a tremendous scheme but doesn’t really have a feel for how to handle your quarterback. You better handle him properly. Cam’s been doing that forever, and he’s been doing it at all levels of ball. I’m just very impressed with what he’s doing.”

The results have shown up elsewhere, as well. Hill, LSU’s leading rusher this season, is averaging 8.3 yards per carry compared to last year’s 5.3 mark. The team also enters the weekend with the 16th-best scoring offense in the nation, averaging 43.3 points per game – a noticeable improvement over last year’s 29.8-point average.

And with the tools at his disposal – the big arm of Mettenberger, the deep speed of Beckham – the Tigers have even been able to utilize the vertical passing game more often than in years past. In fact, LSU has already completed 21 passes of 20 yards or longer, which ties for sixth-most in the nation and puts the team on pace to easily surpass last year’s total of 44.

“The LSU I was always used to when I started watching football in high school was the running type with Jordan Jefferson back there. Now that they got Mettenberger back there, it’s a whole ‘nother story,” sophomore linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. “Never really noticed until we watched film yesterday and Sunday that they actually pass the ball a good bit more than I thought, and I definitely hope we can stop the run game to affect the pass. If not, it’s going to be a long, physical, draining game.”

But that’s not to say that Cameron has steered the offense away from its staple diet of running between the tackles. The team’s 163 rushes in the first four games show the Tigers are still committed to establishing the run and wearing down their opponent – something older Georgia players remember all too well from the 2011 Southeastern Conference Championship game.

“I started that game,” junior linebacker Amarlo Herrera said. “They pretty much run the ball a lot. They didn’t have a first down the whole first half of that game, and then they came out and ran the ball a lot better and kept running the ball. They pretty much do the same thing now.”

For the growing Bulldogs defense, the Tigers will present yet another tough obstacle on what has already been an unforgiving early slate of games.

“Hopefully we can continue to get better at tackling and communicating and all that. You talk about the teams that we’ve played, and we’ve played some pretty good offensive football teams. I’m not trying to make an excuse, but when a defense plays against a team that can really move it and score and has some veteran quarterbacks, you’re going to take some dings,” Richt said. “You have to make some big stops like we did in that South Carolina game. That goal line stop was really the game changer, and sometimes that’s what has to happen.”

Just as Richt notes, Georgia has already played two top-10 teams in Clemson and South Carolina, both of which have top-tier talent and feature precise offensive execution. And having those experiences under their belt is something the Bulldog players believe will better prepare them for the speed and physicality LSU will employ on Saturday.

“It’s definitely getting our confidence up playing these great teams,” freshman safety Tray Matthews said. “We don’t feel like we’re freshmen at all, even though we’re classified as that. Playing these big games early has given us a lot of looks. We’re experienced, so that’s not an excuse anymore.”