1. First off, we all certainly hope folks are safe in Columbia. What are the conditions like there at the moment? (Donations to relief efforts can be made here and here.)
It's still touch and go. Most parts didn't get hit hard around town, but others got hammered. We're still seeing various dams around town under duress due to the increased water flow, and several have failed, leading to further evacuations. Unfortunately, there have been some fatalities due to the weather, so our thoughts and prayers are definitely with those that are dealing with loss.
2. On the field, it's been a pretty rough start for the Gamecocks. What's the confidence level of the fan base coming into this game?
It has been a rough start. Coming into the season, I think that the fans expected that things wouldn't go extremely well, but held out some hope that a least a bowl game was in the cards. Right now, as it stands, that's not even a sure thing, which is a significant departure from when this program was 11-2 for three straight years and consistently getting into bowls. I think that the slow start has really dampened expectations and they're not confident that they'll be able to topple the Tigers. There's a tremendous amount of pressure coming in, too, because they're going to have to scramble to get to six wins, and the likelihood is slim with three more games against top 25 teams coming up after this one (A&M, Florida, Clemson).
3. What are the main issues for this team on offense and defense?
Offensively, I think that one of the main issues is under center. It's one of those things that is an interesting thing to look at because while Connor Mitch was the day-one starter before he got injured, followed by Perry Orth and now Lorenzo Nunez, many think that the development (and recruiting) process hasn't really shown at that position among others. With time, I think they'll be OK with Nunez, but this year time isn't really on their side. Defensively, I think that it's just been a lack of the secondary simply making the right plays and struggling with fundamentals. You saw a guy like Greyson Lambert look like a Heisman candidate when the Gamecocks played UGA, but he absolutely struggled when the Bulldogs went up against Alabama. That tells you something. Pass rush hasn't been where it needs to be, either. They brought in a great JUCO transfer named Marquavius Lewis that was supposed to help that, but he hasn't made the impact I or others had thought he would have. Along with that is the inability to stop the run, which, well, doesn't help with a guy like Fournette on the other site.
4. Is it really time to think about succession plans?
Here's what I have observed among some Gamecocks fans (and I wrote a whole article about this a few days back; this is the synopsis). They (rightfully) see Steve Spurrier as a man who has revolutionized the program and took it to new heights, especially since the past decade before that saw them struggle in mediocrity most times and other times be just plain bad. However, I get the sense that since this program has gone through much worse than it is right now, those same fans feel that Spurrier deserves a pass and that one day, he'll be able to get the program back to its former place as an SEC power. I really don't see that. He hasn't been able to maintain the level of success that the program had through aggressive recruiting and proper development, and, frankly, he isn't getting younger. Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, I think that they have reached their peak under Spurrier. The conversation about who will eventually take the reins does need to be had, regardless of how hard it is to do so.
5. Lorenzo Nunez flashes a little talent, and Pharoh Cooper is obviously a star. How afraid should LSU fans be of that duo?
I like Nunez's game. He's a mobile quarterback who can make plays with his feet, and if you give him enough time in the pocket, he shows great poise. However, he's still raw. He does tend to lock onto a receiver too long and hasn't really developed great field vision. His overall passing technique does need work as well, but those things should come with time. As for Cooper? Not much else needs to be said. He's the best player on this team and if you get him the ball, he'll make things happen. I think that if LSU is able to contain those two players, and maybe Brandon Wilds (if he's healthy enough to play on Saturday), they should win easily.
6. What do you think has to happen for South Carolina to pull off a trap here?
Simply put: they have to stop Leonard Fournette. If they're able to do that, that will force Brandon Harris to make plays on his own, and, as you've seen, he hasn't really been needed that much because the running game takes the pressure off of him. They also need some big plays out of Nunez and the receiving corps. They probably won't be able to get much on the ground since LSU has been so good at stopping the run, so that will be a test for Nunez and the WRs coming in.