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What To Watch For: South Carolina

Steve Spurrier/Dave Aranda ain’t walking through that door, nor is Joe Burrow.

Sean Rayford, AP

Remember that LSU-South Carolina game in 2012, under the lights in Death Valley?Remember that game when a slightly set back, but not yet out title contending LSU team defeated No. 3 South Carolina, led by Marshon Lattimore and Jadeveon Clowney?

This isn’t that. Reeling LSU faces a mediocre at best South Carolina team coming off a victory over similarly mediocre Auburn. LSU is currently tailspinning, and will be without Myles Brennan, the man who kept you in the game with Missouri.

South Carolina, offensively, would normally be easy pickings for an LSU defense. This is not a team that is super effective throwing the ball down the field, relying heavily on the quick game and screens to survive in the pass game. Collin Hill has an average depth of target under seven yards right now (per SEC Statcat), so normally an LSU defense would be able to just play up on their receivers and suffocate them, adjusting to more read based man-match schemes when adjustments are required for man beaters.

This LSU team, under Bo Pelini’s dereliction. have a weak grasp on the more complex assignments, and are severely limited in how they can adjust, so that’s fun. South Carolina has run the ball very well with a zone heavy attack the likes of which hurt LSU against Vanderbilt and killed them in part against Missouri. The big story is that LSU will lack Brennan this weekend, so we will see true freshman (developed in a pandemic mangled offseason) TJ Finley, who was likely not in LSU’s plans as current or future term starters, so again, that’s fun. We will likely see some Max Johnson as well at QB.

What To Watch For

For South Carolina

Horn Of Winter

Jaycee Horn has been absolutely superb this year for South Carolina. Last week was his magnum opus so far, absolutely locking down Auburn’s top option Seth Williams and that really suffocated Auburn’s fragile pass game. Defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson makes no bones about traveling him to shadow a team’s favorite target. Unlike Dave Aranda for instance, who locked his corners to the outside and one side of the field (although they would sometimes switch sides but it was based on playing the boundary or the field corner position, not shadowing a player). Jaycee Horn is going to spend a lot of time on Terrace Marshall, and if he can win that matchup, things could go wayward for LSU in the pass game like they did for Auburn. With a true freshman (and most likely two) quarterback playing, LSU needs its go-to receiver to be a major factor.

Drops of Jupiter

This is a simple one, but oh my god that team needs to stop dropping balls. The Gamecock offense had an opportunity to do some serious damage to Florida, guys were schemed open and Collin Hill was making the right reads and throwing accurately. But the receivers dropped approximately a million yards, and it’s continued all year. They’re decently talented on the outside, Shi Smith is fantastic and Nick Muse is a promising tight end, but catching the ball? Important. I think this offense is a bit limited, but it could be very solid if they just converted these opportunities instead of dropping everything.

Stat Leader Predictions for South Carolina:

Passing: Hill, 23/39, 324 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: Harris, 22 carries, 167 yards, 1 TD

Receiving: Muse, 6 catches, 83 yards, 1 TD


Drawn and Quarterbacked

Myles Brennan had been one of LSU’s only bright spots this year, looking absolutely prolific and improving quickly through the first three games. Having the facilitator of the passing game sidelined at this juncture of the season is cosmically cruel. TJ Finley will get the start, and he’s in an impossible situation right now. Finley is very gifted physically, but struggled to a complete half his passes in high school, was not highly ranked, and likely wasn’t part of LSU’s plans for starting at any point. Oh well, this is why you get depth!

Zoning out part 2

South Carolina really likes to run inside zone, and they do so effectively. LSU is not good at defending, well anything right now. Zone schemes in particular have given LSU problems, with over-pursuits and missed run fits creating havoc for LSU’s rush defense. Kevin Smith has been revelatory in the run game for South Carolina, so he could have big day. Lot of pressure on the interior defensive line and Damone Clark to improve quickly.

Simple Plan

In the wake of utter confusion, dysfunction, and lapses, Ed Orgeron has committed to forcing a simplification of the defense called by that guy who claims to coordinate it. What I think this will look like is LSU plays straight man-to-man, particularly two-man, as it is an exceedingly simple coverage. You have a guy, cover him. It leaves LSU wide open to adjustments by South Carolina like mesh routes and its many variants, as well as any kind of switch releases or rub routes. But oh well, it’s better than passing off a vertical route to a safety who isn’t there, or playing slow and hesitant due to general uncertainty.

Stat Leader Predictions for LSU:

Passing: Finley, 14/29, 137 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT

Rushing: Emery, 23 carries, 119 yards, 1 TD

Receiving: Marshall, 7 catches, 87 yards, 1 TD