The Mad Hatter And The 'Ol Ball Coach

Brian ScottAnalyst IOctober 17, 2008

I know that when I first wake up in the morning, I always feel better after splashing some cold water in my face. Hopefully the LSU Tigers are feeling better after getting their heads dunked in the ice tub on their recent trip to Gainesville. 


Now that the Bayou Bengals have gotten a glimpse of their own mortality, they have to prove that they are still good enough to contend for the coveted SEC crown. The first day of the rest of their season will be this Saturday, when they travel to South Carolina to take on Steve Spurrier and his upset-minded Gamecocks.


While “USCe” has its share of weapons this season, most opposing teams would have to consider the biggest X factor to be their legendary coach, Steve Spurrier. The “Head Ball Coach” has often seen his team outmatched and outplayed during his tenure in Columbia, but rarely has he ever been out coached. He was out coached last year in Baton Rouge, and there is little doubt that Spurrier has forgotten about it.


Coach Spurrier will have more weapons in his arsenal than he did last year, however, and he plans to use them. South Carolina is ranked at the top of the SEC in total defense and they will look to exploit the inexperience of LSU’s freshman quarterback Jarrett Lee. 


On offense, things haven’t been quite so steady. Spurrier has benched quarterback Chris Smelley and settled on Stephen Garcia to handle the snaps. But the anchor of the USCe offense has been senior wide receiver Kenny McKinley. McKinley, who has broken many South Carolina records already, will hope to take advantage of a possible mismatch on the LSU defense.


LSU’s secondary has suffered without decorated safeties Craig Steltz and Laron Landry, both now in the NFL. Florida and Mississippi State picked apart the unit that has tarnished image of a program that has become known as “Defensive U”. Garcia and McKinley will no doubt try to exploit this weakness.


Spurrier’s former Gator team exposed an Achilles heel on LSU’s offense, and by stacking the box, they showed how to kill two birds with one stone: Stop LSU’s big back Charles Scott from busting through the line, and put enough pressure on Jarrett Lee that he makes rash decisions and poor throws. The groundwork has been laid, and the Gamecocks will try to execute.


On paper, LSU is the more talented team overall and should win this game if they play to their potential. If Jarrett Lee can show some confidence and poise in the pocket, his cannon for an arm can be deadly against any defense. Lee will need to lean on his fleet of Mack trucks of an offensive line to give him time to make good decisions and accurate passes. If he does, look for LSU’s talented receiving core to make more of an impact in this game.


While the Gamecocks boast the top overall defense in the conference, they actually lag behind LSU in rushing defense. LSU will need to pound Charles Scott through the huge holes that the offensive line was blasting open for him prior to the Florida game.  If Scott returns to form, it will take some of the pressure off of Lee and make this LSU offense very hard to stop. 


LSU’s defense has been nicked up lately. Boisterous defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois, who was noticeably absent from the rushing defense against Florida, did not see much practice this week and is questionable for Saturday’s game. Charles Alexander expects to play despite dealing with some minor injuries this week.  Linebacker Darry Beckwith will also be back on the field for the LSU defense and hopes to make a big impact against the Gamecocks.


In addition to the predictable game plan, don’t be surprised to see a few trick plays on both sides of the ball. It’s not likely that either team will see a holder flipping the ball over his head to the kicker who then scampers into the end zone, but look for some originality that could produce the same kind of “shock and awe”.  After all, we’re talking about a live chess match between the ‘Ol Ball Coach and the “Mad Hatter”.


LSU 34  USCe 17