South Carolina vs. LSU: Why Gamecocks' Offense Will Be LSU's Toughest Test Yet

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterOctober 11, 2012

South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore
South Carolina RB Marcus LattimoreKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Florida went toe-to-toe with LSU last weekend in the Swamp, and came out of it with a hard-fought 14-6 win over the Tigers.

That loss was the culmination of three straight concerning weeks for LSU, which isn't good considering the Tigers have games vs. No. 3 South Carolina, No. 22 Texas A&M, No. 1 Alabama and No. 19 Mississippi State over the next five weekends.

What's worse than the lull coming at the worst possible time is the way in which LSU lost to Florida. It got dominated in the trenches, plain and simple. 

What's more alarming is the fact that Gator running back Mike Gillislee ran all over the LSU defense in the second half to the tune of 146 yards and two touchdowns.

In the second half, Gillislee rushed for 117 of his yards, and Florida didn't even attempt a pass after it took a 7-6 lead with 5:15 to go in the third quarter.

That's domination.

With that in mind, this weekend's matchup against No. 3 South Carolina should terrify Tiger fans. Last time I checked, South Carolina can run the ball as well, even though it's in a different way to the Gators.

Running back Marcus Lattimore is in the Heisman Trophy discussion for a reason. All of the concern around his surgically-repaired knee seemed to go out of the window in South Carolina's opener vs. Vanderbilt, and the junior work horse for the Gamecocks hasn't looked back since.

Lattimore is averaging 91.5 rushing yards per game and has found the end zone on the ground on nine occasions. Along with Georgia's Todd Gurley, that's tops in the SEC.

However, it isn't just Lattimore that will make Gator defensive coordinator Dan Quinn sweat this weekend.

Quarterback Connor Shaw has averaged 65 rushing yards per game over the last three games, and hasn't shown any sign of the broken shoulder blade that he injured in the opener bothering him at all. 

The combination of Shaw and Lattimore presents a big problem to LSU, especially after its dismal performance last weekend in the second half against the run.

While Florida's combination of Gillislee and quarterback Jeff Driskel presents a dangerous one-two punch on the ground, it's fair to say Shaw and Lattimore are much more accomplished—even though, statistically, Gillislee is having a better year than Lattimore.

When Gamecock head coach Steve Spurrier saw Florida line up and run it down LSU's throats, his eyes had to get as wide as saucers. 

Just like Florida did, South Carolina can line up and use its weapons in the ground game to wear out the Tigers. That's an area that can be exploited, and plays away from LSU's strength, which is its pass defense (122.5 yards per game).

Spurrier has successfully evolved from a coach who loves to air it out to a coach who wins by running the ball and playing defense. On Saturday night in Death Valley, we will see him run the ball until LSU proves it can consistently stop it.

If last week is any indication, it won't be able to.