The #7 LSU Tigers (4-0, 2-0) will travel up the east coast to face the South Carolina Gamecocks (2-3, 0-3) in SEC action Saturday afternoon. LSU has won the last six meetings dating back to 1987; that includes a 23-21 win at home in a game the Gamecocks covered as a 3 point underdog on October 13, 2012 in the most recent meeting.
LSU is coming off a 44-22 whipping of Eastern Michigan at home last week. Meanwhile, South Carolina was handled 24-10 by Missouri for their third straight conference defeat to start the year. Kickoff from a waterlogged Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina is scheduled for 12:00 pm ET and will be televised nationally on ESPN. LSU is currently a 13 point favorite in this contest.
**Note: This game has since been moved to Baton Rouge since this article was posted.
LSU dominated their game against Eastern Michigan as they outgained the Eagles 479-265 in the contest despite struggling to throw the ball once again. When you have Leonard Fournette in the backfield, it seems you can get away with not being able to throw with any regular success. He set a SEC record with his third straight 200 yard rushing performance as he racked up 26 carries for 233 yards and three scores. LSU forced three Eastern Michigan turnovers, one of which they returned for a score, and held off a determined Eagles squad that was within one score at the end of three quarters.
The Tigers are just 124th in the nation in passing as they average 95.5 yards per game through the air; they are 4th in rushing offense with an average of 336 yards per game. The ground game is helping them average 36 points per contest while they allow 21.5; it may be a matter of time before defenses start piling nine guys in the box. Brandon Harris is only 33 of 62 passing for 382 yards with two touchdowns and one interception while rushing for 143 yards. Fournette has been a beast on the ground with 99 carries for 864 yards and 11 scores; Darrel Williams is next in line with 33 carries for 183 yards. When Harris actually completes a pass, Travin Dural (10 receptions, 120 yards) and Malachi Dupre (eight catches, 122 yards, TD) are his top targets. Trent Domingue has hit all 18 extra points and six field goal attempts this season.
Even with Missouri’s starting quarterback suspended, the Gamecocks couldn’t pick up their first conference win of the season. The Gamecocks were held to 298 yards of offense and while they were only outgained by one yard in the game, turnovers told the tale. South Carolina turned the ball over three times while failing to force a turnover in the game. The tone for the game was set from South Carolina’s first possession: they took over at the Missouri 49 after a punt. That drive was a run for -3, run for no gain and a sack that cost them 14 yards. The punt for the Gamecocks went 17 yards, putting Missouri at their own 49. They scored on the ensuing possession and never trailed.
The Gamecocks are 110th in the nation in passing offense with an average of 163.2 yards per game though they do average 190.2 yards per contest on the ground. South Carolina is averaging only 20 points per game while allowing 25.8 on the year. The Gamecocks have started three quarterbacks: they’ve combined to hit 51.9 percent of their throws for 816 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions. Lorenzo Nunez, the current starter under center, leads the team with 299 yards and a score on the ground. Brandon Wilds (35 carries, 181 yards), Shon Carson (31 carries, 158 yards, TD) and David Williams (44 carries, 154 yards) have been sharing the workload on the ground. Pharoh Cooper is the #1 receiver for South Carolina and one wonders how good his numbers would be with capable quarterback play: he has 26 receptions for 322 yards and 2 scores. Elliott Fry has hit all eight extra points and 10 of 14 field goals: he’s 1 of 4 from 40 to 49 yards but 2 of 3 from beyond 50 with a long of 52.
LSU is 6-2 ATS in their last eight on the road against teams with a losing home record and 5-2 ATS in their last seven after allowing less than 100 yards on the ground. South Carolina is 3-7 ATS in their last 10 in October, 1-4 ATS in their last five conference games and 0-4 ATS in their last four against teams with a winning record.
South Carolina has shown an inability to win in conference play; part of that is they just can’t find ways to score and move the ball. Facing a LSU team with one of, if not the, most explosive backs in the nation is going to make things difficult. Unless the Gamecocks put eight or nine guys on the line of scrimmage to force the Tigers to throw in order to give Fournette some space, there’s no chance the Gamecocks can pull this one off. The Ol’ Ballcoach has to be wondering what tricks he can pull out to try and save a fast sinking season.