COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Fresh off a victory against a ranked Auburn team a week ago, South Carolina looks to add another statement victory to its tally this year when they face defending national champion LSU at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge.
Ed Orgeron’s squad looks to regain their footing this season after going 1-2 in their first three games. Their last out saw Mizzou come away with a 45-41 in a battle of the Tigers. Although LSU may not be ranked and under the .500 mark, the Gamecocks have no intention to take them lightly.
“They are the defending national champions,” said Gamecocks junior Spur Brad Johnson. “That’s a fact regardless if you look at them that way or not. So, they do have talent. They do have guys that can make plays and so do we. We just have to step up this week and every game like it’s a nameless, faceless opponent and just attack on Saturday regardless of who it is or what team.”
With quarterback Myles Brennan out this week due to injury, the Tigers will turn to TJ Finley to lead the LSU offense. The 6-foot-6, 242-pound freshman was rated a three-star quarterback in high school and tossed 72 touchdowns during his high school career. While there’s not much film to analyze on Finley, the Gamecocks worked to prepare for all of the Tigers' possible options at the position.
“I think that there’s similarities in all of them,” said Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp when asked about preparing for LSU’s quarterbacks. "They’re big guys. Both Finley and Max Johnson are guys we were familiar with. We’ve watched all of their high school tape so we’re very familiar with them. Both guys are extremely talented. Both guys can really spin it. They both have athleticism to extend plays and create some things in the run game, which they somewhat do with Brennan as best they can.
“So again, they’ve been very successful in what they do. They’ll identify the things that are really good for those guys and what they feel comfortable with and, then, you’ve got to adjust in the game to what they’re doing.”
Over the last three games, LSU has relied heavily on the passing game. The Tigers have scored 11 touchdowns and average just over 370 yards per game through the air.
Leading the way at receiver for the Tigers is Terrace Marshall, Jr. The 6-foot-3 junior is LSU’s top receiver with 21 catches for 424 yards and seven touchdowns. Complementing him are freshman Arik Gilbert and sophomore Jaray Jenkins. Combined, the duo has hauled in 22 receptions for 305 yards and two touchdowns.
However, stopping the Tigers' passing attack is something the Gamecocks are looking forward to. Defensively, Carolina allows an average of 243.5 yards per game, which places them among the top 45 pass defenses in the country in that category.
“I think we had two explosives passes in the game, maybe three, but I thought we have much better coverage, much tighter coverage in situations,” Muschamp said, “much more times to knock the ball off people so that was pleasing. We’ve got to continue to improve because this group’s thrown for 400 a game, throwing the ball at a very high level against some really good players.”
Defensively, the Tigers have not had the best showing this year. LSU has allowed nearly 39 points per game while giving up an average of almost 500 yards per game. With the Gamecocks having found recent success on offense over the last two games, they hope to continue that trend Saturday.
“I think we’ve gotten better every week,” Gamecocks quarterback Collin Hill said. “I thought we’ve been able to run the ball really well the last two weeks. Against Vanderbilt in the weather, I think we had like 300 yards rushing maybe, and then, last week, we were able to run the ball really effectively as well. Being balanced has been a key and I thought we capitalized on some turnovers created by our defense, too. So we’re playing good complimentary football right now and you want to continue to build on that.”
South Carolina will face LSU in Baton Rouge at Tiger Stadium at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The game will be televised on ESPN.