South Carolina-LSU: Can Upset-Minded Gamecocks End Tigers' SEC Title Hopes?
Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks are riding a four-game win streak, one that may have very well salvaged their season. At one point the Gamecocks were 1-2 (0-2 SEC), but after two games against inferior opponents, USC was ready to begin their streak of six straight conference games.
The first two games were against Ole Miss and Kentucky. In the Mississippi game the Gamecocks realized that their backs were against the wall: Win or lose relevance in the SEC. Quarterback Chris Smelley took the fate of the program upon his shoulders and carried them to a huge win.
Spurrier knew that last weekend's game against Kentucky would test his team's mettle. The Wildcats had fallen just short in their bid to upset the Tide. Kentucky wanted to prove just how good they were, and bouncing back to beat South Carolina after losing to Bama would do just that.
However, the Ole Ball Coach had his team ready to go. They came into Lexington fresh off a huge victory at Oxford and rode their momentum to victory.
This weekend the Gamecocks return home to defend Williams-Brice Stadium against Les Miles and the LSU Tigers.
The demoralizing 51-21 loss in the Swamp has the Tigers out for blood, but LSU appears to be both mentally and physically weak after the pummeling they suffered at the hands of Florida.
The Tigers are not game-planning for Smelley's erratic play, but instead for the athletic Stephen Garcia. However, LSU needs to worry about their own problems first.
LSU is without a proven quarterback. Jarrett Lee has done a better job leading the offense than many had expected. However, the sophomore’s lack of experience has led to many critical mistakes, mainly interceptions.
Hatch, the transfer from Harvard, has shown that he is a threat to run the ball, but he is not a proven passer. The biggest flaw with either is his inability to manage the game.
Last week, Florida exposed a defense that LSU had kept hidden from the nation. Florida shredded a defense that has consistently ranked at the top the last couple of years. Not that there weren't a few questions—they did give up 21 points to Auburn.
The bottom line is LSU's talent is not as deep as it has been in years past. If you look at the players drafted by the NFL, you will undoubtedly witness LSU has become a pipeline to the NFL.
With two first round draft picks in the last two drafts, it is clear why the Tigers may struggle against tougher opponents: They have lost most of their starters from the previous two years.
The defense is bound to be softer after the losses of Landry, Dorsey, Steltz, and the like. The offense has lost two quarterbacks in two years, a pair of steady receivers, and a workhorse at running back.
The big question is, is this a rebuilding year for LSU, or is this where Saban's recruits and players leave LSU and Miles with insufficient talent?
If there is a likely time for LSU to lose to an opponent they should soundly beat, it is this weekend. South Carolina should come into this game with a chip on their shoulders from being counted out of this ballgame already. LSU comes into this game weak from last week and with several question marks.
If Spurrier is going to pull off a major upset, the time and conditions are just right.
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