Game of the Week: Week 7
South Carolina overwhelmed the Bulldogs last week holding them to only 7 points.
Ryan Trapp | Staff Writer
Two of the top defenses in college football will face off against one another this Saturday in the Orange Bowl’s Week 7 Game of the Week. The No. 3 South Carolina Gamecocks (6-0, 4-0) will try and continue their SEC dominance against the imposing No. 8 LSU Tigers (5-1, 1-1), who are looking to get their season back on track after a hard-fought loss to Florida last week.
The Gamecock’s defense has been better than advertised, racking up 25 sacks and eight interceptions while allowing just 10.5 points per game on the season. Leading the way is defensive superstar Jadeveon Clowney, a do-it-all defensive end who we could see go number one overall in 2014. He’s second in the SEC in sacks (6.5) and tackles for losses (11.5) and can completely take over games. The rest of South Carolina’s front four have elevated their game as well, proving integral to a defense that held a high-powered Georgia offense to just 224 yards of offense (75 of which came on a final drive) in last week’s 35-7 victory over the Bulldogs. Quarterback Connor Shaw has been very efficient with the ball (185.7 passer rating, 1,014 yards of offense, eight touchdowns, two interceptions and a 75.7 completion percentage), limiting turnovers and keeping defenses honest with his ability to move out of the pocket. Junior Marcus Lattimore has been a workhorse at running back, and could be heating up at just the right time, with 229 yards and three scores over his past two games. However, Lattimore, Shaw and the rest of the Gamecock’s offense will face their toughest challenge this week in Baton Rouge.
LSU’s defensive front four is one of the deepest in the nation, with five projected draft picks (and two surefire first rounders) in their rotation. Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery are stalwarts at the defensive end position, commanding double teams all game long while Bennie Logan, Anthony Johnson and Josh Downs clog up the middle lanes from the tackle position. The Tigers have allowed just 224.3 yards per game, good enough for fourth in the nation, and their defense has them still in contention for an SEC crown. On offense, junior quarterback Zach Mettenberger hasn’t provided as big a boost to the passing game as the LSU faithful had hoped (139.9 passer rating, 1,174 yards, six touchdowns, three interceptions), but their rushing attack is as good as ever. Kenny Hilliard, Alfred Blue and Michael Ford have combined for 890 yards and 10 touchdowns, at an impressive 6.4 yards per carry. However, injuries along LSU’s beleaguered offensive line (Chris Faulk is out for the season, Alex Hurt and Josh Williford might both miss the game) could spell trouble for Hilliard and company this season.
The Bayou Bengals have had South Carolina’s number over the series’ history, holding a 16-2-1 advantage all time over the Gamecocks. They also ride the nation’s longest home winning streak, claiming the last 21 games played in Tiger Stadium. But with a school-record 10-game win streak, the Gamecocks are one of the hottest teams in football right now, and the dominant play of Lattimore and Clowney should make for a good matchup on Saturday.