Early Analysis: South Carolina vs. LSU

Will LSU fold this week, too?

No. 3 South Carolina at No. 9 LSU
Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ESPN
Line: LSU -2.5

Last weekend’s loss to Florida confirmed what many had suspected through the first five games of the season. The team that put together LSU’s fantastic 2011 (regular) season died that January night in the Superdome against Alabama.

Meanwhile, in a win over Georgia, South Carolina made all the plays that the Tigers were making a year ago. The Gamecocks battered UGa and completely shut down the Bulldogs’ proficient offense. In true LSU fashion, it was a special teams TD that blew the game open.

Is South Carolina the new LSU? Is LSU still LSU? All will be revealed Saturday night.

For South Carolina to Win: The Tigers still have their bite on defense, ranking 6th nationally in Defensive S&P+. Look for LSU to key on South Carolina’s zone-read game and force quarterback Connor Shaw to find a way to beat the Tigers’ talented secondary with his arm. If Shaw and Marcus Lattimore can’t get it going on the ground, Steve Spurrier will have to go back to his Fun ‘n Gun roots and work out some strategies to string together enough drives to put points on the board.

For LSU to Win: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but count on South Carolina to put this game on LSU QB Zach Mettenberger’s shoulders. Florida stymied LSU’s ground attack last week, holding the Tigers to a measly 1.68 yards per attempt, and Mettenberger simply couldn’t deliver in what was an all-around ugly offensive performance. Les Miles will have to take the reins off and try to give his offense a chance at explosive plays on early downs with shots downfield.

Key Player, South Carolina: Tight end Rory Anderson. Do you really buy that South Carolina’s receivers will shake loose from the LSU secondary? Yeah, me neither. But maybe the Gamecocks can finagle some favorable match-ups for Anderson, who leads the team in touchdown receptions with four on the season.

Key Player(s), LSU: The offensive tackles. The Tigers have shuffled guys around all year on the offensive line, but this group will likely include Vadal Alexander, Josh Dworaczyk and Alex Hurst. Whoever they are will be tasked with keeping South Carolina’s pass rushers, including Jadeveon Clowney, out of Mettenberger’s face.

Key Stat: 15. That’s how many sacks LSU has allowed so far this season, tied for 106th nationally and 11th in the SEC. This will be the best pass rush the offensive line has faced yet.