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Winners and Losers: South Carolina

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TJ Finley shines and Trey Palmer ends a near four-decade long drought

South Carolina vs LSU Photo by Gus Stark/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

Okay, hand up: I picked South Carolina to win.

I’m glad to be wrong of course, but this past week felt daunting when it was announced Myles Brennan would have to miss last night’s game. My thinking was a truly bad LSU defense plus a freshman making his first ever start would lead to struggles and yet another loss.

But boy did TJ Finley ever assuage those worries.

Winner: TJ Finley

Everything from Saturday’s win starts and stops with Finley. He looked phenomenal in his first ever collegiate start. 17-21, 265 yards, 2 touchdowns and a rushing score. Finley hit his first four passes and completed 13 of his first 15. But even more impressive was Finley completing three of four passes on third downs. After infamously failing to convert a single third down against Missouri, the LSU offense converted eight of ten tries, by far and away its best showing in 2020.

Personally I’m not in favor of benching Myles Brennan from here on out in favor of Finley. The 2-2 start is by no means on Myles Brennan. But if Brennan can’t go against Auburn, and Finley has another showing like this on The Plains? Well...you’ve given me something to think about.

Winner: Offensive Efficiency

The LSU offense took the field 11 times Saturday night. Two drives LSU purposely ran out the clock to end both the first and second half. One drive ended with an interception. So that means on the nine drives LSU offense deliberately tried to score points, they were successful eight times. That’ll work.

Winner Terrace Marshall

I’ll keep it short and sweet because we know who this dude is: six catches, 88 yards, two scores and a future first round pick.

Loser: Run Defense

The defense as a whole still wasn’t great, but I want to single out the run defense in particular. South Carolina had four “BIG” rushing plays—a play that resulted in at least 10 yards— and here’s the yardage gained on those four plays: 45, 19, 21 and 49 yards. When the run defense failed, it failed spectacularly.

Adjusted for sacks, the LSU defense allowed Vanderbilt to run for 165 yards, Missouri to go for 178 and Carolina to go for 185 yards. Now LSU’s about to go up against Auburn’s Tank Bigsby and Alabama’s Najee Harris. Buckle up.

Winner: BJ Ojulari

Coach O knows talented defensive linemen when he sees them and called his shot on BJ Ojulari: future All-American. Well last night he certainly looked like one. Four tackles, three were sacks. For the year Ojulari has nine total tackles: five are tackles for loss, the other four are sacks. He’s also added three quarterback hits and forced a fumble. He’s giving LSU the kind of pass rushing defensive end the Tigers haven’t had since Arden Key.

We’ll say it again. BJ Ojulari: future All-American.

South Carolina vs LSU Photo by Gus Stark/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

Loser: Tiger Linebackers

This kind of goes hand in hand with the run defense but man the LSU linebackers have been underwhelming. Damone Clark only had two solo tackles, while Jabril Cox had three solo. Maybe some of it is their skillsets don’t quit sync up with what Bo Pelini wants to do compared to what Dave Aranda wanted to do, but the second level of the LSU defense has left a lot to be desired through four games.

Winner: Trey Palmer

The first kickoff return for a touchdown by an LSU player in Tiger Stadium in 39 years. 39 years! Literally the first one in my life.

I’m disappointed Palmer hasn’t had more touches offensively because he’s shown what he can do when he has the ball. He’s scored two touchdowns in his LSU career, this one and he returned a punt for a score against Northwestern State last season. And yet in 2020 he’s only caught two passes. Maybe it’s as simple as there’s only one football and a plethora of equally skilled playmakers, but Palmer has shown he can be dynamite with the ball in his hands.

Winner: Elias Ricks

For the second year in a row, LSU has the best freshman corner back in America. Last year it was Derek Stingley Jr., in 2020 it is Elias Ricks. He was targeted three times and allowed zero completions. Ricks also picked off his third pass of the season last night and returned it for a touchdown, including throwing up the deuces on his way in which is hella disrespectful. I love it.