The South Carolina Gamecocks (2-3, 0-3 SEC) and LSU Tigers (4-0, 2-0 SEC) are going in opposite directions. It seems as if the Gamecocks’ 2015 season is a study in Murphy’s Law. Head coach Steve Spurrier is on his third quarterback. The program appears to have fallen behind Kentucky in the SEC pecking order. And now with the historic flooding in South Carolina the Gamecocks won’t be able to host the game, as it has been moved to Baton Rouge.
Les Miles and the Tigers could make a strong argument for being the team to beat in the SEC. Leonard Fournette has emerged as on the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. And while their offense is one-dimensional, so they haven’t truly dominated their opponents this season; their defense, projected by many to be the best in the SEC this year, currently ranks 16th in the country after allowing only 294 yards a game.
You know who else has allowed 294 yards a game this season? Georgia. The Bulldogs beat the Gamecocks 52-20 on Sept. 19, with Nick Chubb (second-best back in the SEC?) rushing for 159 yards.
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South Carolina at LSU
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
Spread: LSU -18.5
1. Who scores first?
There really seems to be only one way South Carolina could win this game. Getting an early lead and forcing LSU to come back.
While that wouldn’t insure South Carolina victory, the Tigers’ simply don’t want to pass. Quarterback Brandon Harris was only 4-of-14 for 80 yards and an interception against Eastern Michigan last week despite the fact the Eagles loaded the box against LSU. Perhaps that was the key to rattle Harris. He was sacked three times.
And if LSU goes up early do you like Gamecocks quarterback Perry Orth, who has not been impressive this year, to bring USC back?
Orth will start in place of Lorenzo Nunez, who suffered a sprained shoulder in last week's 24-10 loss at Missouri.
2. How many people show up?
If you’re a Gamecocks fan thinking of making the trip to Baton Rouge, you’ll need another ticket. LSU will not honor tickets previously sold for Williams-Brice Stadium, as the new tickets went on sale online Thursday evening.
This means LSU will have less than 48 hours to sell 102,321 seats, with the money from tickets sold going to the South Carolina athletic department, who stood to lose more than $3 million in revenue by not hosting the game, save for the expenses of hosting the game.
Fans holding tickets for the Columbia date can get a refund from the South Carolina ticket department, or the aftermarket seller, such as Stub Hub. But if you bought your tickets from a scalper or eBay, you may be out of luck.
Just how many LSU fans can be expected to reschedule their weekend and spend their hard-earned money for a “Presto” home game, even with the team doing so well? This game will provide an interesting case study on the support of LSU (and South Carolina) fans as well as a study on what is possible with modern-day online sales. One hundred thousand tickets simply could not be sold in less than 48 hours before the Internet age.
Or, since LSU will not get revenue from the game, could Tigers fans stay home so as to cripple a conference rival’s budget? That’s probably over analyzing, but if you’ve ever decided to forgo buying a ticket from a scalper for one from the ticket office so your team and not the local street hustler would get your money, it might be something to consider.
Sounds cliché, doesn’t it? The team that turns the ball over the fewest times wins. But how did South Carolina beat North Carolina on Sept. 3? They were able to intercept Marquise Williams three times. How did South Carolina lose last week to Missouri? Mizzou’s defense, No. 1 in the SEC, picked off Nunez three times.
Can you see South Carolina winning this game without getting any turnovers?
Similarly, if LSU is to rout the Gamecocks to demonstrate its complete domination, something the Tigers have really yet do this season, do you think they can do it without picking off a pass or two or recovering a fumble?
In this way Orth might be beneficial for South Carolina's chances. Running quarterbacks like Nunez often have high error frequencies, as Nunez is still in "run-first, pass-second" mode.
As mentioned above, the Gamecocks’ only hope is to take an early lead. Otherwise, with all South Carolina is dealing with — the state more than the university’s football team — it would seem the Gamecocks would be a prime candidate to roll over if they got behind by a couple of scores early.
South Carolina’s 4-2-5 base defense doesn’t even seem conducive to stopping a great rusher like Fournette. Throw in uncertainty at quarterback as well as running back with Brandon Wilds out the last two games, the ineffectiveness of defensive lineman Marquavius Lewis, and do you really think this will be South Carolina’s first victory against LSU since 1994?
Prediction: Tigers 28, Gamecocks 10
— Written by Marky Billson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. An experienced beat reporter and sports writer, Billson began contributing to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2000. He has covered the Steelers, Pitt Panthers, MLB and more during his career. Follow him on Twitter @MarkyBillson.