The story of last year’s 28-16 Tiger win was a fake field goal at the end of the first half that allowed Colt David to easily dash into the end zone after Matt Flynn’s Harlem Globetrotter over-the-head pass.
The touchdown put the Tigers up by two TDs instead of 10 points—and took the air right out of the Gamecocks. Ever Mr. Trickeration himself, Steve Spurrier, had a good laugh at the brilliantly designed and executed play.
This year, however, is much different. LSU drew what I consider the three toughest East opponents. After last week’s debacle at Florida, LSU follows the South Carolina game with Georgia (not to mention Alabama not long after). Point being that LSU will be playing with a serious sense of urgency.
Look for a number of Les Miles’ gutsy calls to take place.
Meanwhile, the Gamecocks are currently riding a four-game winning streak, so claiming a win against LSU would boost an already confident bunch—and provide a legitimate shot at a lengthy winning streak. South Carolina’s next two games are at home against uninspired Tennessee and erratic Arkansas—and that includes a bye week before playing the Vols.
Translation: Both teams should be playing as if their seasons are on the line—and rightfully so.
South Carolina will win if...
The O-line can give Stephen Garcia/Chris Smelley time to throw the ball.
Carolina’s offensive line has already given up 24 sacks this season, so it doesn’t take a genius to conclude that the Tigers will get to Garcia/Smelley every once in a while—despite the fact that the LSU defensive line has not lived up to its billing this season.
The real difference will be what those sacks cost the Gamecocks. Kentucky sacked Garcia three times in one half, but none of them were backbreakers.
In addition, LSU’s defensive backs looked overmatched last week against Florida—bad news since Garcia was on the money last week against Kentucky’s defensive backs, arguably the best secondary in the SEC. Garcia was 10-14 for 169 yards and one touchdown, not to mention 22 scramble yards—all in less than a half of football.
If Garcia stays in the game, he is always dangerous to tuck it and run—and this kid runs North and South, picking up what defenses give him instead of trying to bust the long run every play.
Turnovers are limited and/or don’t take place in Carolina territory.
Plain and simple, the Gamecocks have not protected the ball. Based on their games this year (-7 turnover margin), it’s doubtful they can win the turnover war. But allowing an LSU defensive or special teams touchdown would be devastating.
Despite four turnovers in Lexington last week, Carolina pulled out the victory—thanks in large part to Garcia’s heroics, but also to the stout Gamecock defense.
South Carolina has only allowed two touchdowns through the air, so Lee and/or Hatch will have to work to find the end zone—unless the Gamecock offense hands them a few gifts in the red zone.
A defense—even one as good as Carolina’s—can only be put in so many bad positions before it allows a touchdown, something Carolina learned the hard way in their loss to Vanderbilt.
South Carolina will lose if...
Charles Scott runs free.
Carolina can’t get pushed around up front against a tough LSU offensive line. The Gamecock defense limited Knowshon Moreno to a 79-yard day, and that effort must be duplicated against LSU.
Coming off a less than impressive 35-yard performance against Florida, however, Scott will be out to re-stake his claim as the premier back in the SEC. If Scott starts ripping off big chunks, the deep pass opens up. Speaking of the deep pass...
LSU hits the home run plays.
If LSU strikes fast, especially if it’s early in the game, the Cocks will have a hard time getting back in the game. South Carolina can move the ball, but the offense needs time to go up and down the field.
The Carolina defense must stay home, as they have all year.
LaFell and Tolliver can’t go for 50 or 60-yard catches. A Trindon Holliday return for a touchdown just can’t happen.
The X factor
A lot of people would say Stephen Garcia is the obvious X factor. I disagree. Not only is his youth cancelled out by Jarrett Lee’s, but there really is no guarantee that Garcia will get the majority of the snaps.
The Head Ball Coach has been known to pull a few fast ones, and he might use Smelley (who was the SEC Player of the Week just two weeks ago) to try his hand against LSU’s secondary. I doubt he will, but you never know with Spurrier.
Last week Ryan Succop was 1-5 on FGs. Normally reliable, Succop is ailing from an abdominal strain, and he only practiced for two days prior to the Kentucky game. Special teams guru Ray Rychleski later said he never should have played Succop.
If Succop can’t go, inexperienced Spencer Lanning will take his place.
In what appears to be destined to be a close game, field goal kicking will be essential.
The last time the Tigers last fell in consecutive regular season games was in 2001.
Then again, Les Miles has been money in games after bye weeks, and we all saw what happened in Gainesville this past weekend, even with the benefit of a bye week.
Up until yesterday, I was convinced LSU would win in a heartbreaking fashion for the Gamecocks, but after going back and forth a million times, I think the Gamecocks will pull off a shocker.
Spurrier’s receivers are looking closer and closer to the Gators of the '90s, and Garcia has given the Gamecocks a certain swagger.
If Carolina can turn it over four times and miss four field goals on the road in the SEC and still win (as they did last week), I think they can minimize those mistakes at home, leading to a celebration at Williams-Brice.
South Carolina 24, LSU 23
For the LSU perspective, check out Justin Goar’s article.