Has the SEC found its next national championship contender? If the South Carolina Gamecocks have any say in it, the conference that has won six consecutive BCS titles could have a surprise challenger for No. 7. But, in order to finish that improbable run, there still remains much work to do, and that begins this weekend against a stunned group of LSU Tigers.
South Carolina proved its mettle with an impressive 35-7 shellacking of then-No. 5 Georgia last weekend, pounding the Bulldogs with a relentless ground game and a smothering defense. The victory propelled the Gamecocks to a No. 3 national ranking and placed them squarely in the national championship race.
But championships are not won in October, and the Gamecocks are in the midst of the SEC gauntlet. For the second consecutive week, South Carolina faces a top-10 team, this time on the road in Baton Rouge (and next weekend South Carolina takes on the fourth-ranked Florida Gators). But this is not your typical team of Gamecocks, who will arrive at Tiger Stadium with the nation’s second-rated passer in Connor Shaw and one of the top-rated defenses in the land (4th nationally in scoring defense, 11th in total defense). Their lofty No. 3 national ranking is also rarified air for the Gamecocks, marking their highest ranking since 1984.
In order for South Carolina to firmly entrench itself as a national title contender, it must knock off the LSU Tigers, who played that role a season ago before falling to Alabama in the national championship game. LSU is coming off if its first regular season loss since the 2010 season after Florida snapped its NCAA-best 18-game regular season winning streak with a 14-6 victory last weekend in The Swamp. With the Tigers backed into a corner, South Carolina will have to rely on its attacking pass rush and ball hawking secondary to try to keep the struggling LSU offense unhinged.
Saturday’s matchup will mark the first time in the 19-game series history that the Gamecocks enter the game ranked higher than LSU in the AP Top 25. Now they will try to permanently replace the Tigers as the SEC’s “other” national championship contender this season.
#3 SOUTH CAROLINA vs #9 LSU
SAT. OCT. 13 – 7PM / ESPN