What To Watch For: LSU

GamecockAnthem takes a weekly look at a few things to watch for in the upcoming game. This week's edition focuses on the big matchup this weekend with the No. 9 ranked LSU Tigers as South Carolina looks to continue the nation's longest winning streak.

South Carolina hits the road this weekend as they travel to Baton Rouge to take on the LSU Tigers. The Gamecocks are riding high after a big 35-7 win over the Georgia Bulldogs and find themselves ranked as the number three team in the country. LSU is coming off of a tough loss to the Florida Gators 14-6 and are hoping to get things back on track in the extremely tough Tiger Stadium, also known as "Death Valley."

Right now, LSU currently has a 21-game winning streak in Tiger Stadium which is the longest current streak in the nation. LSU's Les Miles has made a living on his home turf as the Tigers are 47-6 overall since his arrival in 2005. This is a tough place for the Gamecocks to play as history indicates the Tigers have the edge when this game is playing in Baton Rouge. LSU owns a 10-1 record over South Carolina in games played in Baton Rouge, with the only win coming in 1994 on an 18-17 victory by the Gamecocks.

The good thing for South Carolina is this is a different and much more prepared team for this environment. Behind the legs of Connor Shaw and Marcus Lattimore and a sturdy defense led by star Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina is on the edge of competing for an SEC Championship. Things are coming into place for the Gamecocks so far this season and LSU's offensive struggles certainly give the Gamecocks a chance to walk into Tiger Stadium and exit with a victory.

It won't be easy for South Carolina but it never is in the SEC.

With that said, let's take a look at this week's What To Watch For.

What will the Gamecocks do for an encore?

South Carolina played lights out football against the Georgia Bulldogs last weekend. College Gameday was in town, excitement was brewing and the Gamecocks proceeded to put their name firmly in the mix for the national championship with the 35-7 win.

The last time South Carolina had a similar scenario in Columbia, they wound up losing to Kentucky on the road the following weekend. The parallels are certainly there for the Gamecocks but the leadership on this team won't allow that to happen again. Connor Shaw and Marcus Lattimore have been extremely effective the last few games and South Carolina's defense has been nearly unstoppable.

So how do you follow up last week's dominant victory? By doing exactly what's gotten you here so far – a strong running game and dominant defense. South Carolina needs to come out and set the tone early with Marcus Lattimore on the ground on offense. Get him involved and force LSU to focus even more on shutting down the run than they already will be. This should give Connor Shaw the chance to get some one-on-one situations with his receivers and continue his efficient passing. On defense, Jadeveon Clowney and the rest of the defensive line need to bring pressure on Zach Mettenberger and force him to make mistakes. They can't allow the LSU run game to continuously pound the ball so playing strong up front on the line of scrimmage is important for South Carolina.

The Gamecocks have played in tough environments before and will face another one on Saturday night. They just have to play their brand of football and continue to do what they do best.

Defense tough against the run

We all know South Carolina's run defense is good. We've seen the numbers. The Gamecocks rank second in the SEC and ninth in the country in rushing defense with an 83.33 yards per game average. South Carolina is allowing just 2.41 yards per carry on 209 attempts. In three of six games this year, South Carolina has kept its opponent under the 100-yard mark.

The numbers back it up for the Gamecocks but South Carolina will have their hands full against LSU's tough running game. Currently, the Tigers are averaging 198.3 yards per game on the ground, which is fifth in the SEC and 34th in the country. They've had three different running backs break the 100-yard mark three times each this season.

This matchup could determine the outcome of this game. LSU's passing game has been inefficient this year so they rely on the running game. If the Gamecocks can shut down LSU's running backs on Saturday night, they should have a great opportunity at victory. If not, then it could be a long night for the Gamecocks.

Sack-tastic for the Gamecocks

A banged up offensive line is not what you want facing this top-notch South Carolina defensive line. South Carolina has racked up 25 sacks this seasons, which is tops in the SEC. The Gamecocks are averaging 4.17 sacks per game and are fourth in the nation in sacks per game. The South Carolina defensive line has been able to bring enough pressure that it allows the defense to minimize the blitzes in each game which helps the secondary have more men in pass coverage.

This week, South Carolina faces a passing offense that is averaging just 195.7 yards per game which is 12th in the SEC. The quarterback for LSU, Zach Mettenberger, is not the most mobile quarterback around. He's a larger quarterback who prefers the pocket instead of being on the move.

Mettenberger's up and down play this season should give the Carolina defensive line the opportunity to bring plenty of pressure on the LSU quarterback. Jadeveon Clowney and Devin are both tall, physical defensive ends that are extremely fast and quick and are known to bring a lot of havoc to their opponents backfield.

LSU looks like they'll be on their sixth starting lineup along the offensive line this weekend. This doesn't bode well for a unit that really needs to work together to build cohesiveness. Having so many pieces in and out can spell doom against a talented front like South Carolina's.

If you're looking for an edge this weekend for the Gamecocks, this could be the one.

Penalties could play a factor

These two teams this weekend are complete opposites when it comes to penalties. LSU is one of the most penalized teams in the league being flagged 50 times for 388 yards. On the other side, South Carolina has only been flagged 27 times for 215 yards.

When you play disciplined football, you can usually come out victorious. South Carolina has gotten away from the mental mistakes this year and have done a great job of not hurting themselves with penalties. Obviously, LSU is still a great football team so even though they are the league's worst penalized team, they've done enough to still be ranked number nine with a 5-1 record.

The Gamecocks need to continue to play smart football this weekend and make sure they stay away from those mistakes that could cost them yardage along the way.

South Carolina and LSU will start at 8:00 pm on ESPN with Brent Musburger doing the play-by-play and Kirk Herbstreit doing analysis. Heather Cox will be on the sideline.

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