The No. 3 South Carolina Gamecocks travel to Baton Rouge to take on the No. 8 LSU Tigers on Saturday night in another huge showdown with both conference and national implications. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. and the game will televised by ESPN. This article takes a look at five things the Gamecocks must do well to notch a huge victory.
Jadeveon Clowney dives for Georgia running back Todd Gurley in the Gamecocks' 35-7 win over the Bulldogs..
1. Take the crowd out of the game – It’s well documented how tough it is to beat LSU at night in Death Valley, and one of the big reasons is the noise level inside the stadium. Nothing will take the crowd out of the game better than a fast start by the Gamecocks out of the gates. Steve Spurrier’s team can’t afford a first half like they turned in two weeks ago in Lexington, Ky. It needs to be much more like last week at home against Georgia where they were hitting on all cylinders and executing the game plan to perfection.
2. Come after Mettenberger – The LSU offensive line is banged up and has not performed as expected this season. One of their weaknesses has been protecting quarterback Zach Mettenberger. The 6-foot-5, 230 pounder also has very little mobility and has a tendency to hold on to the ball too long in the pocket. This should have the Gamecock defensive line licking their chops and give them multiple opportunities to force game changing plays with consistent pressure on Mettenberger.
3. Strong up front – The South Carolina offensive line is coming off their best performance so far this season, but they will need to be even better this week. LSU’s defensive line is significantly better than Georgia’s, particularly at defensive end. The offensive tackles will be well prepared to handle more speed and athleticism on the edges and give Connor Shaw the time he needs in the pocket. Shawn Elliott’s bunch must also get a push and open holes for Marcus Lattimore and the other running backs.
4. Strong on special teams – LSU is at their best when they’re making big plays on special teams. They’ve missed Tyrann Mathieu’s play making ability on defense and special teams, but that doesn’t mean the Tigers aren’t capable of making it happening on special, whether it’s a long return or blocking a punt or kick. South Carolina has shown a knack for making big plays themselves and need that trend to continue in this game.
5. Score any way you can – This game will feature two of the nation’s elite defenses and points figure to be a premium on Saturday night. Therefore South Carolina must take advantage of any and all scoring opportunities, whether it’s a chance for an offensive score, a defensive score, a special teams score or executing on a field goal. They can’t afford to come away empty handed when scoring chances are presented to them.
Final analysis – Prior to the season, this was a game I believed would be very difficult for South Carolina to win. LSU appeared stacked on both lines of scrimmage and expected to feature college football’s best play maker in Mathieu. Conventional wisdom also suggested their passing game would be significantly improved with Mettenberger taking over at quarterback.
However, much has changed since August. First Mathieu was suspended for the year. Then the Tigers suffered key injuries on the offensive line and Mettenberger has been inconsistent at best throwing the football. This has allowed teams to devote more defenders to stopping the run and make LSU beat them with the pass, something they’ve struggled to do.
I believe you will see South Carolina defend LSU much the same way they did Georgia by playing Cover 1 in the secondary, which should allow them to control LSU’s rushing game and bring loads of pressure on Mettenberger. While I don’t think it will be easy by any means, I have changed my stance and now believe this match up favors the Gamecocks on multiple fronts. I predict the Gamecocks will keep the magic alive and come away with a huge victory on the road, setting up an enormous showdown next week in The Swamp.
Prediction – South Carolina 17 LSU 13