Tigers at home on road for SEC title game

Beginning with a 40-27 victory over then-No. 3 Oregon at Cowboys Stadium, the LSU football team has hit the road to beat four ranked opponents.

So even if the Tigers may not be right at home for the Southeastern Conference Championship Game, they should certainly be right in their comfort zone.

LSU (12-0) lines up against No. 12 Georgia (10-2) at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Georgia Dome, located about 70 miles from the Georgia campus.

It is nothing the Tigers have not seen before.

“We’re used to playing in that environment,” LSU coach Les Miles said during a Sunday teleconference. “We’re used to being on the big stage. I think our guys translate the glare of the lights to making plays in the game. I think that they did that against Oregon in Dallas and right on through.”

LSU’s list of signature road wins includes its 9-6 overtime victory Nov. 5 at Alabama, the game that put the Tigers on course to reach their fifth SEC title game in 10 seasons.

At home, LSU has three more wins against ranked foes, including Friday’s 41-17 rout of then-No. 3 Arkansas.

Miles said he recognized his team’s penchant for rising to the occasion when the Tigers beat then-No. 16 West Virginia before a hostile crowd Sept. 24 in Morgantown, W.Va.

“I remember we were a little dead getting off the plane in West Virginia, and it was just live. I mean, it was a big-time environment and a wonderful night. Our guys just had come to life,” Miles said.

The string of impressive wins in high-stakes situations has played a big role in LSU’s climb to the top of the national rankings and its pursuit of a perfect season.

The Tigers have been so dominant, in fact, they may not even need a victory over Georgia to reach a rematch with Alabama in the BCS national championship game.

Their opponent Saturday, on the other hand, often looked like a long shot to win the SEC title.

Georgia debuted at No. 19 in the preseason rankings, but suffered a disheartening 35-21 loss to Boise State at the Georgia Dome in its season opener. The following week, the Bulldogs were beaten at home by South Carolina, the preseason favorite to repeat as East Division champs.

A 10-game winning streak has gotten coach Mark Richt off the hot seat and propelled Georgia into its first SEC title game since beating LSU there in 2005.

“We knew, if we kept battling, we had a chance,” Richt said. “It was a long, hard fight for us.”

The Bulldogs had already clinched the East title when they beat rival Georgia Tech on Saturday.

“When that game was over, there wasn’t a lot of celebrating,” Richt said. “You could quickly see our young men and our staff getting their focus ready for the game this weekend.”

LSU and Georgia have combined to win five SEC championships the past 10 years. The teams are meeting in the title game for the third time after splitting meetings in 2003 and 2005.

The Tigers nearly faced the Bulldogs in the 2007 championship game, but Tennessee won a tiebreaker with Georgia to determine the East Division’s representative.

“I can tell you that our football team is looking forward to the opportunity to play them,” Miles said. “The opportunity to get through the regular season and get to a game that is representative of our conference championship is really the goal of our football team.”

Mathieu honored

LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu on Sunday was named the Walter Camp Football Foundation’s national defensive player of the week.

Mathieu, a sophomore, had a team-best eight solo tackles, forced two fumbles and recovered one as the top-ranked Tigers defeated then-No. 3 Arkansas 41-17 on Saturday in Tiger Stadium. He also had a 92-yard punt return for a touchdown to tie the game at 14-14, wiping out the Razorbacks’ 14-0 start.

Meanwhile, Alabama junior running back Trent Richardson was named the national offensive player of the week after rushing for a career-high 203 yards on 27 carries in a 42-14 win at Auburn. He also had a 5-yard touchdown catch.