Daunting challenge for South Carolina at LSU
BATON ROUGE, La. — Steve Spurrier lightheartedly, if not dismissively, shrugged off questions this week about the mystique of LSU's Tiger Stadium, even though he knows from experience how hard it can be to win there.
“That is the Death Valley, isn't it? Or is there another one? There's two of them. That's right. There's two Death Valleys,” the colorful coach of No. 3 South Carolina said in a two-pronged jab at Saturday night's opponent — LSU — and the Gamecocks' in-state rival, Clemson. “We know it'll be loud and crazy and all that kind of stuff, but we've won in front of 90,000 before.
“The tiger doesn't play defense or offense for them — not yet, anyway,” Spurrier added, referring to LSU's Bengal tiger mascot, Mike. “They keep him caged up, I think.”
Spurrier has his best team in his eight seasons at South Carolina, which is ranked its highest since climbing to No. 2 in 1984.
The coach has had plenty of victories at LSU, both as Florida's quarterback and coach, but also had one of his worst upsets there. That was a 28-21 setback in 1997, when he was coach of the No. 1 and defending national champion Gators. The Tigers were ranked 14th.
This time it won't be an upset if South Carolina (6-0, 4-0 SEC) fails to make it out of Louisiana's version of Death Valley with its record unblemished. No. 9 LSU (5-1, 1-1) is a 2 1⁄2-point favorite even after losing last week at Florida.
Although LSU's offense stagnated in that 14-6 loss, the Tigers have one of the top defenses in the country and can still win the SEC West by winning their remaining league games. The Tigers also have won a school-record 21 straight at home. They haven't lost in Tiger Stadium since Oct. 10, 2009 — against then-No. 1 Florida, led by Tim Tebow.
“We can't lose any more, or our national championship hopes are gone. We've got to buckle down and just get to it,” said LSU linebacker Kevin Minter, who had 20 tackles and a forced fumble at Florida. “If we win this game, it would give us a little more momentum going into the rest of the season.”