Making The Pick highlights this Week 7 matchup between #3 South Carolina and #9 LSU.
Right now no team could really being considered as being hotter than South Carolina. Fresh off their thumping of then #5 Georgia 35-7, the Gamecocks have every reason to feel good about going into Saturday night’s matchup with the #9 LSU Tigers. Meanwhile LSU is coming off a disappointing defeat at the hands of the Florida Gators last week losing 14-6. LSU had their chances last Saturday, but simply squandered every opportunity (notably and Odell Beckham fumble after a big pickup through the air). These two teams have oddly not met up since back in 2008 where the Tigers came away with a slight win, 24-17 in Columbia. Going into this Top 10 matchup the key question is: Are the Tigers still smarting from their loss to Florida, or are they ready to overcome their offensive difficulties and get a big win at home?
Here are the facts: LSU’s strength is running the football, QB Zach Mettenberger has zero mobility, and the LSU Offensive Line is subpar. This combination is anything but favorable, and has adversely effected the Tigers this season. There is however a silver lining to these otherwise seemingly glaring weaknesses. First, LSU does have one of the best RB corps in the country. They easily go 4-deep with Spencer Ware (185 yards), Alfred Blue (270 yards), Kenny Hilliard (382), and Michael Ford (238 yards). Together they have helped LSU run for 198.3 rushing yards per game which is 34th in the country. Then we have Mettenberger. Mettenberger is strong armed and has an excellent frame to play quarterback at 6’5 235 pounds. He has also completed 62% of his passes while only throwing 3 INTs so far this season. The problem with Mettenberger being his lack of poise in the pocket and ability to feel pressure in combination with being, for the lack of a better term… slow. So how does LSU combat this you ask? With absolute subpar offensive line play that was easily apparent in the loss to Florida last week. Last week LSU was overwhelmed up front by Florida en route to only gaining 42 rushing yards on 25 carries. Additionally LSU’s Offensive Line allowed 4 sacks to a Florida team that only had 5 total sacks going into the game.
The LSU offense has its share of problems, sure. The defense however, is still very good. They currently have the #3 overall defense only allowing 221 yards per game, and the #3 pass efficiency defense despite losing both their All-American corners in Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne. Last week it was the LSU defense that kept the Tigers in the game against Florida. But let’s be honest, Florida is a good football team but they are by no means as good as their current #4 ranking might indicate. In the 2nd half Florida capitalized on injuries to LSU LBs Kevin Minter and Kwon Alexander by successfully running the football with RB Mike Gillislee over and over again. Gillislee had 146 yards on the ground both Gator TDs. Florida only had 237 yards of total offense all day and QB Jeff Driskel only threw for 61 yards on the afternoon while getting sacked 5 times. So it is important to not get too up in arms over the LSU loss last week. LSU still fields our #1 ranked Defensive Line in the country and it repeatedly shows every time they play. The secondary is lead by All-American S Eric Reid (32 Tackles) and has so far shown little weakness despite their losses at cornerback. Finally, it will be vital that despite injuires that have knocked out two starting LBs (Kwon Alexander & Tahj Jones), that LSU will get some semblance of production from the linebacking unit.
Video of the offensive snaps for LSU vs. Florida…
South Carolina Offense
Fellow writer Luke Buczek had an outstanding write-up last week on the potential that this South Carolina offense has when they are in rhythm. That rhythm could be easily witnessed last week in their 35-7 win over then #5 Georgia last week. QB Connor Shaw was incredibly efficient, throwing for 162 yards and 2 TDs on just 10 passes while also running for 78 yards and another score. Meanwhile All-American RB Marcus Lattimore was his typical workhorse self by running for 109 yards and a TD on 24 carries. These are the Gamecocks major weapons on Offense, and they will both see plenty of touches this Saturday.
South Carolina Defense
Defensively South Carolina just plain dominates teams with their front seven. South Carolina has 25 sacks on the year which is #2 in the nation, and they will bring pressure time and time again all game long. Sophomore DE Jadeveon Clowney (11.5 Tackles for Loss & 6.5 Sacks) is nearly un-blockable at this point and with LSU’s best OT Chris Faulk out for the season with injury, the 1st question I pose is: How is it possible for this embattled LSU offensive line going to deal with South Carolina’s relentless attacking defensive line? It doesn’t just end with Clowney either. Fellow DE Devin Taylor (16 Tackles and 4 for loss) certainly has an NFL future, backup DE Chaz Sutton has 4 sacks in relief duty, and starting DTs Kelcy Quarles and Byron Jerideau have combined for 7 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. The secondary does have questions especially with the loss of NFL draftee CB Stephon Gilmore, but will LSU even have time in the pocket to test the secondary? Georgia certainly didn’t. LSU has a multitude of questions to answer on Offense, and the South Carolina defense will not make it easy for the Tigers to turn things around this weekend.
Winner – South Carolina
The equation is simple to figure out. LSU has poor offensive line play, and South Carolina has a great defensive line. Additionally South Carolina has a much better and more consistent offense, especially with Shaw and Lattimore. All hope isn’t lost for LSU to come away with a win, but they simply can not rely on their defense as heavily as they did last week. Quite simply South Carolina is a much better and more balanced team than what they saw last week in Florida.
This video pretty much sums up Jadeveon Clowney…