LSU offense vs. South Carolina defense
The South Carolina defense is causing all the commotion coming out of Columbia as its ranked eighth nationally in scoring defense. The Gamecocks stifled Matthew Stafford and Georgia two weeks ago in a 16-12 win. Seniors Jasper and Casper Brinkley anchor the group from the linebacker position. They're both big, strong and fast at 6-2, 260. They're a much bigger pair than Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall were for Virginia Tech. It will be up to the offensive line to get to the second level and put a hat on the Brinkley's, because they will be able to shed blocks.
Despite the Brinkley's prowess, running the ball is where teams have been most effective against USC. Opponents are ramming their way for 192 yards per game against the group, so Jacob Hester, Keiland Williams and company should be able to move the ball effectively. The key question will be whether a slightly gimpy Matt Flynn will be able to throw against the nation's No. 2 pass efficiency defense, especially without top target Early Doucet. He should have plenty of time to throw as the Tiger's offensive line has been spectacular at pass blocking and South Carolina has only four sacks all season.
Expect to see LSU's underrated offense move the ball well all game long. The Tigers should easily establish the run, which will open up play-action passes, while the passing game should click with USC getting no pressure on Flynn. Ryan Perrilloux running some of the "Tebow Package" should make LSU even more dangerous, particularly on the run. Advantage: LSU
LSU defense vs. South Carolina offense
The statistical numbers for LSU's defense are staggering. The Tigers have forced more turnovers (9) than points allowed (7). They are averaging more sacks (4.33) than points allowed per game (2.33). LSU ranks No. 1 in the nation in scoring and total defense, and nobody else is even close. To expect the Gamecocks, who rank 67th nationally in total offense, to do a whole lot offensively is like expecting a me driving a Honda Civic to beat Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Daytona 500. Cory Boyd and Mike Davis form a nice tandem at the running back spot, combining for 169 yards per game. But, they'll be facing a group that hasn't allowed that much on the ground all season.
The passing game has been particularly anemic with people around the Palmetto State questioning what happened to the offensive guru that is Steve Spurrier. Blake Mitchell has been consistently inconsistent and USC desperately misses Sidney Rice, who bolted for the NFL after last year. Kenny McKinley represents the only threat, but LSU's back four should be able to keep the Gamecocks in check.
Look for the Tiger front seven to create all kinds of havoc for Blake Mitchell and the running game. South Carolina's only chance will be to hope Boyd and Davis can run between the tackles and take the yardage they'll get and then Mitchell to connect on a big pass or two. Other than that, LSU should dominate as it has its previous three games. Advantage: LSU
LSU special teams vs. South Carolina special teams
South Carolina has been particularly bad in kickoff and punt returns, but surprisingly LSU has been worse. With all the playmakers the Tigers have, it's hard to believe, but that's the way it's been. Both teams feature excellent kickers in Ryan Succup and Colt David. The scales tip towards LSU in the punting game as Patrick Fisher leads the nation at nearly 45 yards per boot. Advantage: LSU
South Carolina will come out fired up early and be able to stay in the game with its defense. However, once LSU can get the running game established, it's lights out for USC. The Gamecocks will have trouble moving the ball all day long as the Tigers stingy defense roars again. LSU 34, South Carolina 7