Jadeveon Clowney leads the Gamecock "D"
Many felt that when South Carolina visited Baton Rouge the second weekend of October that it could feature a Top-10 matchup.
The No. 3-ranked team in the country taking on No. 9 was about where both teams were expected to be at this point in the season. And that is exactly what will take place next Saturday, but both teams are trending in opposite directions.
LSU dropped to No. 9 in the AP Poll following a 14-6 loss to Florida on Saturday, while South Carolina moved up to No. 3 after the Gamecocks dismantled a Georgia team that entered the game ranked fifth in the nation by a 35-7 count.
The Tigers have not dropped back-to-back conference games since the 2008 season when they lost to Ole Miss and Arkansas. That year, LSU had all kind of problems on the defensive side of the ball. This year, the troubles on the other side of the ball may be as daunting.
LSU has scored only one touchdown in its last three games against an SEC opponent, and the Tigers have major issues on offense.
South Carolina is enjoying its highest ranking since Nov. 10, 1984, and the Gamecocks have done it with a stifling defense, and a balanced offensive attack.
First-year defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward has his unit ranked No. 2 in the SEC, giving up only 10.5 points a game. South Carolina allows 278 yards a game, which is good for third behind Alabama and LSU, respectively.
LSU’s strength is running the football and that plays into what the Gamecocks do best as they give up only 83 yards a game on the ground.
An area that the Tigers have not performed well at this year is protecting the quarterback as Zach Mettenberger has been sacked 15 times. That will be a major problem for the Tigers next Saturday because the Gamecocks lead the league with 25 sacks led by Jadeveon Clowney, who is second in the conference with 6.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss.
Clowney had his way with Georgia left tackle Kenarious Gates, and he may have a field day against LSU left tackle Alex Hurst, who is a natural right tackle.
South Carolina’s defensive end tandem of Clowney and Devin Taylor is at the same level of LSU’s duo of Sam Montgomery and KeKe Mingo, and that could bode for a long night for Mettenberger and the Tigers.
South Carolina’s secondary held Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray to 11-of-31 passing for a career-low 109 yards, so finding a weakness on this unit is tough to come by.
LSU faced the SEC’s leading rusher in Florida’s Mike Gillislee, and this week they get Marcus Lattimore, who is sixth in the league with 549 yards and tied for first with nine touchdowns.
South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw is efficient in running the Gamecock offense and is a dual threat that defenses have to keep containment on. He is second on the team with 281 yards, and is completing 75 percent of his passes for 733 yards with seven scores and two interceptions.
LSU’s defense will present the stiffest challenge that Shaw and the Gamecocks have faced. The Tigers were locked in a defensive battle with Florida, and that is what everyone expects when Steve Spurrier brings his Gamecocks into Death Valley.
The Tigers have to find some semblance of an offense that will take the pressure off of John Chavis’ group, otherwise, the Tigers could watch their conference championship aspirations go down the drain.