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Did Georgia, LSU Give CBS Sports Heartache Last Saturday?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 8:42 AM, under ,

There are always risks in signing long term contracts. An underlying theme of long deals is whether or not the value will be there as the contract goes on. That is the type of risk that CBS Sports and ESPN accepted when signing the new multi-year, megabucks media rights deals with the Southeastern Conference this year.

But one has to wonder if, after selecting fourth-ranked LSU at 14th-ranked Georgia for national broadcast this week, CBS Sports was suffering anxiety attacks watching this last weekend's games. In the final analysis, the answer is probably no.

 LSU's Chad Jones running punt back for touchdown

93 Yards and a Cloud of Dust: LSU's Chad Jones runs punt back 93 yards
for a touchdown, which allowed fourth-ranked LSU to hold on to a
34-24 win over Mississippi State. Steve Franz/LSU.
Image courtesy of LSU Sports Information.

Officially, CBS made the selection of the upcoming game last week. The backroom reality is that, as our readers learned last year, this game was slated for broadcast before the season started. Even then it was a risk because Georgia had lost Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno.

After Georgia fell 24-10 in the season opener to Oklahoma State in Stillwater, there were a lot of question marks around the ability of Senior Quarterback Joe Cox to really lead this year's Bulldog team to a winning season.

Georgia's A.J. Green Blocks Arizona State 37-yard Field Goal Attempt
The Devils Went Down To Georgia: University of Georgia standout wide receiver A.J. Green leaps up to block Arizona State's Bobby Wenzig's 37-yard field goal attempt with 4:31 left in the game at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia. Robe Saye/UGA
Image Courtesy of University of Georgia Sports Communications.

And then Steve Spurrier brought his South Carolina Gamecocks to Athens for a game that has traditionally been played very tightly, with offense not ruling the day. This year, however, the offense took off on both sides, with Georgia holding on for a 41-37 victory.

The next week, Georgia traveled to Fayetteville, Arkansas to win another offensive barnburner 52-41 over the Arkansas Razorbacks. In his 3rd game as a starter, Joe Cox was 18-25 for 375 yards and five touchdowns. It took Stafford three years to reach that yardage mark in a game.

Georgia fans were ecstatic, somewhat. Having brutalized offensive coordinator Mike Bobo after the Oklahoma State loss, their target was now defensive coordinator Willie Martinez. "Martinez must go!" was the cry from the Bulldog Nation.

So this past weekend on a very stormy night, the Arizona State Sun Devils came to Athens, and Georgia kicked a last second field goal to win 20-17. Only 17 points allowed? The fans started backing off of Martinez a little bit. That may have been premature, as the weather and field conditions, probably had more to do with Arizona State's poor offensive showing (204 yards of total offense) than anything done by the Bulldog defense.

Notwithstanding, Georgia walked away with a 3-1 over all record (2-0 in the SEC). If not for the fact that Arizona State's Bobby Wenzig having his 37-yard field goal attempt with 4:31 remaining blocked by A.J. Green, Georgia could easily have been 2-2 (1-1 SEC).

Over in Starkville, Mississippi, now fourth-ranked LSU (4-0, 2-0 SEC) presumably faced an easy game against Mississippi State (MSU). LSU has had a relatively easy schedule so far this season, including a 31-3 win at home over Louisiana-Lafayette. Favored by two touchdowns, LSU had outscored Mississippi State 329-67 from 2001 to 2008.

But in last year's game, played in Baton Rouge, MSU only lost 34-24. But eventually that was not enough to save Sylvester Croom's job. So under first year Coach Dan Mullen, the Bulldogs played host to the Tigers.

And what a game it turned out to be. For LSU, defense is not always an issue. This game was a mixed bag though. MSU outgained LSU 374-263, and ran 86 plays compared to LSU's 59.

In the end though, LSU's defense and special teams rose when it had to. On MSU's first play from scrimmage, sophomore cornerback Patrick Peterson intercepted the pass and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown. Junior safety Chad Jones opened the fourth quarter with an electrifying 93-yard punt return for a touchdown that turned out to be the winning points. With less than 2 minutes left in the game, the defense mounted a successful goal line stand.

With the victory, LSU went to 4-0 and rose to number four in the polls.

This means CBS Sports gets two teams coming off of big wins this Saturday. LSU comes in with a questionable offense, and Georgia has a defense that needs to show it can do the job.

But even if the two teams had lost, the marquee value of the Southeastern Conference and these two teams will probably do very well for the network for two reasons.

First, look at what is being offered on the competing networks at the same time. ESPN/ABC has a split national/reverse mirror telecast featuring Florida State vs Boston College and Penn State vs Illinois. NBC Sports has Washington at Notre Dame. It is probably safe to say that CBS likes what they are offering up.

Second, you have to look at what games are being played around the SEC this weekend Games that could be considered for CBS broadcast in bold):

Ole Miss/Vanderbilt
South Carolina State/South Carolina
Georgia Tech/Mississippi State
Florida (idle)

This is why many of the games that CBS Sports will pick up during the season is somewhat predictable. The only other conference game that might make consideration if their seasons were going well would be Auburn and Tennessee. Auburn is 4-0 (1-0 SEC), but they are unranked. Tennessee offers the audience Lane Kiffen and not much else right now. Alabama is number three at 4-0, but Kentucky is not on anyone's radar.

So the bottom line is that even though LSU and Georgia could have come into this weekend wounded, CBS Sports got a good game, and the gamble of the long term contract worked in the network's favor. Both teams are ranked, and the game has huge impact on the SEC standings in both the East and West divisions.

Looking down the road to October 10th, CBS has already slated Florida vs LSU for their prime time telecast, and will be exercising the 6-day option window for the 3:30 game selection. Chances are that CBS will pick up either Georgia at Tennessee or Alabama at Ole Miss.

Published on Tuesday, September 29, 2009

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