No. 3 South Carolina is set to play No. 9 LSU in Death Valley this coming weekend. Despite the meteoric rise of the Gamecocks this year, there are five reasons they will flop in their first real road test.
The Gamecocks have traveled to Vanderbilt and Kentucky this season, but neither win should be considered a true test for this team. The LSU Tigers are coming off a tough road loss to Florida and are hoping to find redemption this Saturday against a Top Five opponent.
The Gamecocks will struggle for the first time since Week 1 in Baton Rouge on Saturday. Watch for these five storylines to light the way to a characteristic South Carolina flop.
Marcus Lattimore has been a major contributor for the Gamecocks offense so far this season.
Lattimore has returned to his former self, rushing for 549 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging 4.7 yards per carry. He also has added 133 yards and 18 receptions to his stat sheet.
Lattimore has been one of the most physical runners in the SEC in his career, but facing off against the LSU defense is a rite of passage few make through victoriously.
The Bayou Bengals have a very physical front line that will not allow for Lattimore to bruise for extra yards. The LSU secondary prides itself in tackles, especially on the running back.
With a fiery LSU defense looking to create havoc and make a statement, Lattimore should be limited in his effectiveness. He may be back to his pre-injury form, but he will be crippled for production against this LSU defense.
Connor Shaw has battled through a tough shoulder injury all season, but he is having his best showing for the Gamecocks in his career. Shaw is completing 75.7 percent of his passes, throwing for 733 yards and seven touchdowns.
He also has been nasty to opposing defenses on the ground, accounting for 281 yards of South Carolina's rushing offense.
Against LSU, Shaw's ability to find space in the ground game will be limited. He also will be facing off against the No. 2 pass defense in the country.
The throws Shaw has often made this fall have come from his ability to open routes with his run game. LSU will focus on keeping Shaw contained, forcing him to battle through progressions against the second-best secondary in the country.
Shaw will have a rough day against the Tigers.
LSU has looked very suspect the past few weeks. The inconsistencies that have been produced on the field have caused a lot of frustration to brew in Baton Rouge, and Les Miles has to right the ship.
Beating the No. 3 team in the country would do it.
LSU has done this before. There have been losses that were trumped by big wins in the past during the Les Miles era at LSU, so what will make this year any different?
The Bayou Bengals will be looking for redemption. They have to return to the national discussion. They match up very well against the Gamecocks and will have the athletic advantage in some key areas.
A win for the Tigers would not be a surprise at all since they're looking for redemption. Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, they help create a perfect storm for LSU to shake up the national discussion yet again.
QB Zach Mettenberger has not been the stable leader he was expected to be this season. He has struggled against every level of competition the Tigers have faced thus far.
Mettenberger is completing 61.8 percent of his passes and has six touchdowns to his name, but 15 sacks is the line that is most concerning. The LSU offensive line is good; it has made some mistakes, but a lot of the problems with sacks have been produced by Mettenberger.
The Gamecocks are one of the best pass-rushing defenses in the country. They rank No. 4 in the country in sacks per game. The pass defense is not as good, pulling in at the No. 28 position this season.
If Mettenberger can make fast decisions, he has the arm and support players to shred the South Carolina secondary. The LSU receivers are better physically and should be able to find space. If he can't dump the ball, Mettenberger will get blasted by the Carolina defensive line. It will be a tight window for success.
Mettenberger holds the keys to this game. If he has a breakout game, LSU will walk on the Gamecocks, giving South Carolina its first taste of defeat in 2012.
The past few games the LSU running game has virtually disappeared. The Tigers had four backs who were taking the college game by storm to start the year, but in the past three games not one of the four has carried the football more than 10 times in a game.
LSU will return to the run this Saturday against South Carolina—it has to.
Zach Mettenberger is facing a lot of heat because LSU has been extremely one dimensional offensively for the past three weeks.
The Tigers also can help their defense with an effective rushing attack. Keeping the ball out of Connor Shaw's hands has to be a part of the game strategy, because winning time of possession will be a major goal for the Bayou Bengals.