BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson was still a high school senior the last time Georgia played at Tiger Stadium, but he remembers the game very well, for it influenced his future.
"That was one of the main reasons I committed to LSU," said Jackson, who made a recruiting visit to LSU during that weekend in September of 2003 and watched LSU's dramatic 17-10 win from the sideline.
"After seeing that, I wanted to be part of this program."
Five years later, Jackson is a big part of LSU's defensive front, which will need to play well when No. 9 Georgia (6-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) takes on the 11th-ranked Tigers (5-1, 3-1) in Death Valley today.
Incidentally, LSU was ranked 11th the last time then-No. 7 Georgia came to Baton Rouge. The Tiger's held a 10-3 lead late in the fourth quarter, but Georgia's Tyson Browning tied the game with a 93-yard touchdown on a screen pass.
"I was expecting a hush from the crowd," Georgia coach Mark Richt recalled. "Usually, when the opposing team does well, the crowd quiets down. All I began to hear was a chant: L-S-U! L-S-U! It got louder and louder and louder. It was the loudest I've ever heard a stadium."
One reason it kept getting louder has to do with what happened next.
With 1:22 remaining, Matt Mauck unleashed a 34-yard pass under heavy pressure and Skyler Green hauled it in for the winning touchdown. The victory turned out to be a crucial one in the Tigers' run to their first BCS national championship.
Last season, Jackson helped LSU to its second BCS title this decade. But LSU hadn't been crowned a day before Georgia president Michael Adams said he thought a playoff system would have better decided the true champion.
Georgia had been on a roll at the end of last season, crushing previously unbeaten Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl.
"I heard about the comment but I guess they're just voicing their opinion," Jackson said. "I can't be mad at that. We won it and it's over now. It's a whole new year."
A new year, indeed, but the same old high stakes between the two teams with the most wins in the SEC during the past five years (LSU with 61, Georgia 57). Both squads still harbor aspirations of playing for a national title in January, despite having lost one game apiece. A second loss, however, could make it tough to win their respective divisions in the SEC, never mind the BCS title.
LSU is in the West Division, along with unbeaten Alabama (7-0, 4-0). Georgia is in a tight race with Florida (5-1, 3-1) in the East.
"It's an SEC clash that is very meaningful to both teams, that the nation is going to be interested in," Richt said. "It's that kind of game that the players hope to play in as they kind of dream of where they might go to college and that kind of thing.
"I'm not saying anybody circled a team before the season started, but as we get to this game everybody knows there's lot riding on it and what's riding on it are the things that guys dream about — winning championships."
Don't be late for kickoff and enjoy it while it lasts, because this game is bound to be a quick one. Both teams average more than 160 yards on the ground, with Charles Scott leading the Tigers' attack and Knowshon Moreno leading Georgia's ground game. Both running backs average better than 100 yards a game.
"It's going to be a game that's going to go by fast because there's going to be a lot of running the ball and we've got to control the ball as much as we can and keep (Georgia's) offense off the field," Scott said. "It's going to come down to who can stop whom, who can play the best defense in this game. I think that's going to be the key."
For LSU, the matchup also provides a chance for the Tigers to measure how good they really are. None of the five teams LSU has defeated are currently in the Top 25 and only four of those teams are in major college football.
Georgia's defense, which has nine returning starters, also could be the toughest test yet for the Tigers' first-year tandem of quarterbacks, freshman Jarrett Lee and sophomore Andrew Hatch.
"It's definitely a big game," Hatch said. "Every (SEC) game is important as far as winning the West and that's our goal, to get in the SEC championship. So Georgia's obviously been having a great season and ranked in the Top 10 and it just adds that much more to it."
LSU prefers to play such games at night, but this game was moved to a 2:30 p.m. local time start for national TV. But Moreno isn't so sure the Bulldogs gain any sort of advantage from an early kickoff in a game like this, especially if it's close.
"I'm pretty sure the fourth quarter is going to be at night," he said. "So it's pretty much a night game."