Behind Enemy Lines: South Carolina vs. LSU
1. LSU's defense is ranked near the top of the country in nearly every statistical category this season, and they're being billed as one of the most dominant units in recent history. With that in mind, what have opposing teams done in recent years to have some success against the stout Tiger defense?
LSU's defense has been ranked at or near the top of the national rankings on that side of the ball for the past several years, dating back to the 2003 season. The Tigers ranked first in total defense in 2003 (252 ypg) and third in 2004 (256 ypg), 2005 (266 ypg) and 2006 (242 ypg). So far this season, the Tigers are rated No. 1 overall in total defense, allowing just 128 yards per game.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Tigers have shown few weaknesses over the past half-decade. If one thing has haunted LSU in recent years, it's been the deep ball. Remember back to the 2005 Capital One Bowl, which subsequently was Nick Saban's last game. Iowa quarterback Drew Tate hit Warren Holloway on a 56-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the game as the Hawkeyes upset LSU 30-25. Sam Keller burned LSU with the deep ball in the Tigers' 34-31 win over Arizona State in 2005, and Jonathan Crompton popped LSU with a deep ball in the Tigers' 28-24 win over the Vols last season. Against Mississippi State in the season opener three weeks ago, Michael Henig completed passes of 26 and 45 yards against LSU. On the flip side, though, Henig threw six interceptions.
2. With Jimbo Fisher now at Florida State, what kind of offensive scheme are the Tigers running this season, and how does it differ from last year's offense?
With the amount of weapons LSU has on offense, nothing has changed all that much. The Tigers play as many as six wide receivers (10 players caught passes in the Middle Tennessee State game) and up to five different running backs. The offense was pretty standard under Fisher. Even when led by the powerful arm of JaMarcus Russell, the Tigers ran and passed with equal consistency. When Gary Crowton was hired, the former La. Tech and BYU head coach said he wasn't going to come into Baton Rouge and re-invent the wheel. The Tigers already had an effective system in place and the ex-Oregon offensive coordinator said he had no plans to shake anything up. There are a few new wrinkles Crowton added to the offense, and when they pop up, it's obvious.
The one thing different about the 2007 offense compared to that of 2006 is the fact that LSU has two quarterbacks that can run the football. Russell showed some nifty moves in the Tennessee , Arkansas and Notre Dame games last season, but he wasn't inclined to take off running too often, nor were there too many designed quarterback draw plays called from upstairs. So far this season, LSU quarterbacks have accounted for 124 yards on 33 carries. Matt Flynn has rushed 18 times for 54 yards and a touchdown (27 ypg), while Ryan Perrilloux has run it 15 times for 70 yards and a score (23.3 ypg).
3. How will the groin injury to star wide receiver Early Doucet impact the LSU offense, and is quarterback Matt Flynn expected to be at full speed on Saturday?
Flynn tweaked an ankle versus Virginia Tech and sat out against Middle Tennessee State for precautionary measures. Flynn and Miles both said he could have played versus the Blue Raiders, but the decision was made to rest him another week. It paid off in the long run as Perrilloux got great game experience, completing 20-of-25 passes for 298 yards and three touchdowns.
Flynn said on Monday that he wasn't 100-percent coming into the week, but that he expected to be at full strength for Saturday's game. Miles said on Wednesday that Flynn has not yet been named this week's starter, but the odds are that he will play. Even though Flynn will likely start, expect there to be plays designed for Perrilloux throughout the game.
As for Doucet, his injury (groin) is a bit more serious, and he is expected to sit at least until the Florida game. Doucet is LSU's best offensive player, but sophomore Jared Mitchell stepped up in a big way against Middle Tennessee (6 catches, 82 yards), and Brandon LaFell has emerged as the Tigers' answer for the void left by Dwayne Bowe. Junior transfer Demetrius Byrd and true freshman Terrance Toliver both caught touchdowns against Middle Tennessee and are considered the Tigers' third and fourth wide receivers.
4. A lot has been made about the South Carolina - LSU game being played during the day, rather than in the raucous nighttime atmosphere of Tiger Stadium. While the day games certainly still provide a hostile environment to visiting teams, what is the biggest difference between day games and night games in Baton Rouge?
Basically, inebriation. LSU fans don't like day games because it cuts into a long day of tailgating and partying for the rowdy residents of south Louisiana. Fans look forward to Saturday, not only for football, but for a full day of festivities. The crowd is as loud as a night game, the daytime just takes a little bit of the edge off compared to a night game.
As for LSU's on the field results, the Tigers have lost a total of two games in Tiger Stadium since 2003, that being a 19-7 loss to Florida in 2003, which was a day game. The other loss was a 30-27 overtime defeat on a Monday "night" following Hurricane Katrina. Since the year 2000, LSU is 10-2 in day games in Tiger Stadium with both losses coming to Florida in 2001 and 2003.
5. What is the attitude like in Louisiana this week about Saturday's game with South Carolina ? Do LSU fans have much respect for Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks, or are they expecting another Virginia Tech type blowout?
LSU fans always take notice anytime Steve Spurrier comes to Baton Rouge . The Ole' Ball Coach is 11-1 all-time versus LSU as a coach and 14-1 lifetime against the Tigers, including a 3-0 record as a player. But like Spurrier said himself earlier this week, he was 11-1 against LSU as the coach at Florida. In order for the Tigers to make it all the way to New Orleans for the national championship this season, they must focus on each individual opponent and respect the strengths each team brings to the table. You can bet LSU's football team is focused on the task at hand Saturday, not looking down the road for those Gators in two weeks.
As for a general consensus, it's most likely that LSU fans view this game as one the Tigers should win. But they will always respect Spurrier and what he has accomplished. He has breathed life back into the Gamecock program, has recruited well and has South Carolina ranked No. 12 in the country in just his third season. However, there is a general feeling that while Spurrier is probably the greatest offensive coach college football has ever known, the Gamecock offense will be overmatched by LSU's defense this weekend.
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