Location: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, LA
Time: 7:00 PM ET on ESPN
All-Time Series: LSU leads 18-2
Spread: LSU -6
South Carolina and LSU have only met six times since the year 2000, and LSU has won each of those matchups. This season however, provides a good opportunity for South Carolina to break that losing streak, and knock off the defending national champions in Death Valley.
The Bayou Bengals have gotten off to a rough start so far, sitting at 1-2 through the first three games. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks have momentum after two straight wins, one of them over a top 15 opponent.
Let’s take a look at how these two teams match-up in 2020:
When LSU Has The Ball
Though LSU has struggled in the win-loss column so far, it hasn’t been because of the offense. The Tigers offense is averaging 38.7 points per game and 467 yards per game, both of which are good for 3rd in the SEC thus far.
The good news for the Gamecocks is, a big part of that success has been due to quarterback Myles Brennan, who is doubtful to play this Saturday.
Brennan had lit up defenses to start the year after learning from Joe Burrow in 2019. He had already totaled over 1,100 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions in just three games.
In his absence, LSU is going to have to start a true freshman in what is a pivotal game for both teams. LSU signed two quarterbacks in the 2020 class, 4-star Max Johnson and 3-star TJ Finley.
Reports out of Baton Rouge suggest that TJ Finley will be getting the start, but it won’t be a surprise to see both quarterbacks get a chance at some point during the game. Finley is a 6”6’ 242 lb gunslinger with elite upside, but is still pretty raw at this point in time.
Even though there is no real tape on him yet, Carolina is fortunate to catch him at this time, while he still has no collegiate experience. Keeping him under pressure early and often will be huge for South Carolina, as his confidence will rise quickly if he starts out hot. I hope to see the Gamecock front seven give him a warm welcome to football in the SEC.
The LSU running back room has plenty of talent, but the offense has been too pass happy for them to be a huge factor so far. Averaging under 100 rush yards per game, the LSU running attack ranks 13th in the SEC.
They have a committee backfield led by Tyrion Davis-Price and John Emery Jr. Davis-Price has gotten a few more carries, but John Emery Jr has been the more efficient runner, averaging 6.5 yards per rush. Keeping both backs under control will also be huge for Carolina, as that will force LSU to throw the ball more with the true freshman.
On the outside, Terrance Marshall is one of the best receivers in the conference, and his matchup with Jaycee Horn will be a fun one to keep an eye on. Freshman tight end Arik Gilbert has the tools to be one of, if not the best tight end in the nation by the time he leaves Baton Rouge.
LSU OL vs SC DL: Push
LSU RB+TE vs SC LB: Edge LSU
LSU WR vs SC DB: Edge South Carolina
When South Carolina Has The Ball
The LSU defense has been the cause of most of LSU’s problems so far this season. Allowing nearly 500 yards per game and 32 points per game, a lousy defense is something LSU fans haven’t seen in a very long time.
The one bright spot of the Tigers defense statistically is the rush defense. Only allowing 114 rush yards per game is good for 5th place in the SEC thus far. However, part of that may be due to the opponents they’ve played.
Mississippi State is obviously a complete air raid and Vanderbilt can’t get a run game going on anybody. Missouri was the only team that tried to run the ball on LSU, and they totaled 180 rush yards on 5.5 yards per rush.
Assuming that Mike Bobo will again try to establish the run game early and often, it shouldn’t be a surprise if the Gamecocks can find success in doing so.
As far as the Gamecocks passing game, it will have to find a way to be more versatile. Shi Smith has found a ton of success early on but Derek Stingley will likely take him entirely out of the game most plays. Stingley is one of the best players in the entire country, which is almost never said about a true sophomore cornerback.
I am once again…— Elite College Football (@EliteCollege_FB) June 22, 2020
…asking you to name a better college DB than Derek Stingley Jr. pic.twitter.com/wI7hzg188f
Jalen Brooks being cleared to play came at the perfect time for Carolina, and he should immediately give the Gamecocks another outside playmaker.
The LSU pass rush has been pretty solid so far, with eight different Tigers logging a sack already. Safety Jacoby Stevens is a big time playmaker for the defensive unit, as he leads the team in sacks and is one tackle shy of being the leader in that regard as well.
Even though the LSU pass defense has been pretty lousy, I think it’s important for South Carolina to impose their will in the run game on Saturday. LSU hasn’t seen a ground attack like South Carolina’s yet this year, so it could take a few drives for them to adjust to playing a team that likes to run so much.
A potential serious problem for this offense is a lack of secondary options in the pass game. If no other options can step up and be respectable targets and Shi Smith gets cancelled by Stingley, Carolina will fall into a one-dimensional run attack which probably will not end well.
SC OL vs LSU DL: Push
SC RB+TE vs LSU LB: Push
SC WR vs LSU DB: Edge LSU
SC QB vs LSU QB: Edge South Carolina
SC Coaching vs LSU Coaching: Edge LSU
In another matchup that appears to be a relatively close one, this game could very well come down to the little things. Field position, penalties, and special teams mistakes for example could go a long way in deciding this one.
Again, the time of possession will play a big role, this time mostly so that LSU’s freshman QB doesn’t get into a groove especially early on.
One overlooked aspect of this matchup is that LSU got an unintentional bye-week last week. Since the Florida game got postponed due to Covid-19, they had a free week off and got to watch the South Carolina game knowing the Gamecocks were next up.
With that said though, South Carolina has the most momentum they’ve had in a while now, and that could play as an advantage as well.
I expect a closely fought game, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see overtime in this one.