South Carolina announced itself as a legitimate national-title contender last weekend. As for LSU, it lost for the first time and is now in desperation mode as the Gamecocks come to Baton Rouge to face the Tigers on Saturday night.
As of Friday afternoon, most books had LSU (5-1 straight up, 2-4 against the spread) installed as a 2 ½-point favorite with a total of 39 ½ for ‘over/under’ wagers. Gamblers can take the Gamecocks to win outright for a plus-125 return (risk $100 to win $125).
South Carolina took Georgia behind the woodshed last Saturday night in Columbia, cruising to a 35-7 win as a one-point home favorite. The 42 combined points stayed ‘under’ the 54 ½-point total.
Steve Spurrier’s squad raced out to a 21-0 lead midway through the first quarter thanks to a pair of Connor Shaw touchdown passes and a 70-yard punt return for a score by Ace Sanders.
Shaw completed 6-of-10 throws for 162 yards and two TDs without an interception. The junior signal caller also scored on a seven-yard run. Marcus Lattimore posted the third 100-yard game of his career against Georgia, rushing 24 times for 109 yards and one TD.
For the season, Shaw is connecting on 75.7 percent of his passes for 733 yards with a 7/2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Shaw is first in the SEC in passing efficiency (184.7). He has also rushed for 281 yards, averaging 4.4 yards per carry.
Lattimore has rushed for 549 yards and nine TDs, averaging 4.7 YPC.
South Carolina leads the SEC in sacks with 25. Sophomore defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is second in the SEC in sacks (6 ½) and tackles for losses (11 ½). With Clowney, senior DE Devin Taylor, sophomore DT Kelcy Quarles and junior DE Chaz Sutton, the Gamecocks have one of the nation’s premier defensive lines.
That’s not good news for LSU, which has issues on its offensive line. Starting OT Chris Faulk went down with a season-ending injury a few weeks ago, and now two other starters could be out. Junior OG Josh Williford sustained a concussion last week and is ‘doubtful,’ while OT Alex Hurst left the team earlier this week for personal reasons and is considered ‘questionable.’
Also on the injury front, LSU will most likely be without LB Kwon Alexander, who is ‘doubtful’ with a sprained ankle.
Les Miles’s team had won 18 consecutive regular-season games until Florida won a 14-6 decision over the Tigers as a three-point home underdog. LSU led 6-0 at intermission and it was clear that points were going to be at a premium in the second half.
Florida finally got going offensively behind the between-the-tackles running of senior RB Mike Gillislee, who scored a pair of touchdowns for the Gators. LSU’s offense couldn’t get anything going whatsoever and when it did make a big play, Odell Beckham fumbled inside the red zone when he was stripped by UF safety Matt Elam.
Despite the defeat, everything remains on the table for LSU. In other words, as long as the Tigers take care of their business, they can still win the SEC and probably get into the BCS Championship Game. With that said, another loss most likely eliminates all of the aforementioned goals.
In his first season as a starter, LSU junior QB Zach Mettenberger is completing 61.8 percent of his passes for 1,174 yards with a 6/3 TD-INT ratio.
LSU is led in rushing by sophomore RB Kenny Hilliard, who has 382 yards and six TDs on 58 carries for a 6.6 YPC average. The Tigers are deep in the backfield with Spencer Ware (4.6 YPC) and Michael Ford (5.7 YPC).
During Les Miles’s eight-year tenure, LSU has limped to an 18-28-1 spread record as a home favorite. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks are 12-8-1 against the spread as road underdogs on Steve Spurrier’s watch.
South Carolina hasn’t played in Baton Rouge since 2007 when LSU won a 28-16 decision as a 17 ½-point underdog. In the last head-to-head meeting in 2008, LSU overcame a halftime deficit to capture a 24-17 victory as a 1 ½-point road ‘chalk.’
The ‘under’ is 3-2 overall for LSU, but the ‘over’ is 2-1 in its three home games that had a total. Totals have been a wash for South Carolina both overall (3-3) and in its road assignments (1-1)
Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
--Toledo junior QB Terrance Owens is enjoying a sensational year to date. The southpaw has thrown for 1,503 yards with a 9/1 TD-INT ratio. Owens has also rushed for 164 yards and three touchdowns. He’s been the catalyst behind the Rockets’ 5-1 start. They are 15-point favorites Saturday at Eastern Michigan.
--La. Tech QB Colby Cameron has 13 TD passes without being intercepted. The Bulldogs take on Texas A&M in Shreveport on Saturday night.
--Dating back to 1998, Boise St. owns a 10-1-1 spread record in 12 games as a single-digit home favorite. The Broncos host Fresno St. on Saturday as seven-point favorites.
--Nevada QB Cody Fajardo has been downgraded to ‘doubtful’ Saturday at UNLV. Fajardo suffered a lower back injury in last week’s 35-28 home win over Wyoming. He has passed for 1,465 yards and rushed for 521. Fajardo has a 9/3 TD-INT ratio and seven rushing scores.
--Click here for my Power Rankings going into Week 7.
Brian Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For daily sports gambling analysis, follow Brian Edwards on twitter at Vegasbedwards.