Probably never before has a top-10 ranked LSU team that’s a favorite in Vegas had the look and feel of such an underdog in Tiger Stadium.
But that’s how good No. 9 LSU’s opponent, third-ranked South Carolina, looks, compared to the Tigers after three straight weeks of less and less impressive performances by LSU. The home team is starting to resemble the band of defenders at The Alamo — a double-digit ’dog to the Mexican army — a dwindling band at that.
Injuries, defections, suspensions and generally shoddy play conspired to doom LSU in a 14-6 loss last week at Florida and make the Tigers look ripe for the beating against the Gamecocks.
But all isn’t already lost for LSU. If Jim Carrey were reading this, he’d say with a gap-toothed grin, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.” Yes, there is, most definitely, if the Tigers can get these three things to work in their favor:
1. Be quick. If the Metlife blimp here in town had been patched together like LSU’s offensive line, it wouldn’t be allowed to fly. Having the likes of Jadaveon Clowney and Devin Taylor chasing Zach Mettenberger puts him on the endangered species list if this ragtag band can’t protect his hide.
How can he get away from them? He probably can’t. So the Tigers have to beat the Gamecocks before the punch. Quick slants. Passes out of the backfield. One step, make that half-step, drops.
And runs. You know LSU will try to run. Best to go right at Clowney and Taylor, trying to put them off balance instead of tilting at Mettenberger. Hopefully for LSU’s sake, Les Miles will make good on his declaration to use tailback Spencer Ware as the Tigers’ designated playmaker. His utilization leads us to the second step which is …
2. Gambling. Remember the “Red Alert Roxie” fake field goal from the last time South Carolina played here in 2007? You can bet a couple of house payments Steve Spurrier hasn’t.
But now is not the time to be timid. It’s time for the Mad Hatter to double down. He mentioned Ware in the Wildcat formation. Wellllll? We’re waiting! Run another version of Roxie. Certainly it’s important to run blitzes at South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw, and try to stack up the line to allow talented tailback Marcus Lattimore few escape routes.
It’s vital that LSU makes something big happen, seizes the momentum early, and never lets the Gamecocks find their comfort zone in Tiger Stadium. South Carolina proved in a 35-7 demolition of Georgia last week it’s loaded with TNT, so the Tigers will have to fight their fire with …
3. Fire. Clowney said during the rout of Georgia last Saturday at South Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium that the crowd was so loud he couldn’t hear, so he was confident the Bulldogs couldn’t hear their offensive checks and cadences, either. The South Carolina faithful weren’t merely spectators but an added weapon for the Gamecocks.
That’s exactly what Tiger Stadium has to be like Saturday for LSU to be able to win.
The late, great Beano Cook once opined that “Dracula and LSU football are at their best after the sun goes down.” It’s not just hyperbole, it’s fact. The night closes over the top of Tiger Stadium like a coffin lid, and for a big game the old gray lady on Nicholson Drive becomes a living, breathing thing.
Thomas Dunson, the much-maligned drop linebacker from the bad, old days of the late 1990s, once compared playing in Tiger Stadium to being inside a volcano. You never know, he said, whether it’s going to erupt on you or the other team.
The passions of LSU football fans can be capricious things, and after the sludgy offensive performances of the past three weeks they’re not likely to tolerate a continued lack of productivity long. The boo birds will find the field like Auburn’s eagle mascot coming in for a pinpoint landing on the 50.
But the Tigers will need cheers, not jeers, if they’re to pull this one off. If things go wrong, they’ll need their fans to yell louder still. Tiger Stadium’s volume needs to go to 11 if the home team’s hopes of finishing 11-1 don’t die in mid-October.
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