GAMECOCKS 2007: at LSU
Has ever so much athletic talent been coached by a man with so little intelligence? Okay, so that might not be a fair question to ask in a conference that includes Houston Nutt and at least one school so embarassed by their last coach that some fans refer to him as [NAME REDACTED].
This guy:Les Miles::Mississippi SAT scores:South Carolina scores.
In any case, it has been a bizarre off-season for LSU head coach Les Miles, who called out the football prowess of the Pac-10, Big XII, ACC and the nation of Sierra Leone. This after he said that the school had a new rival in "f-ing Alabama" -- an emphatic statement for a man who had few links to the SEC or the state of Louisiana before he became the Tigers' coach.
But Les Miles' saving grace -- probably -- is the amount of talent he has. There appears to have been little if any drop-off in recruiting since Nick Saban left, though the truth of that statement will be tested in the next few years. For this season, LSU continues to reload. The question likely isn't whether the Gamecocks will lose this game, but by how much they'll fall short.
O-line. Until the season begins, there is quite simiply no reason to favor the Gamecocks in this category in any game against BCS-caliber opposition. Only a "PUSH" will result when they face an opponent with an equally untested front unit. That's not the case here, as LSU returns all but one starter from last year's line, which allowed 19 sacks. ADVANTAGE: LSU
Quarterback. So was Matt Flynn hanging 40 on Miami in the 2005 Peach Bowl an example of his skills or a mirage of greatness? Last year, he went 12-for-20 with 2 TDs and 1 INT and 133 yards, largely in mop-up time. (The hardest opponent he took the field against was Kentucky.) C&F has sensed few rumblings out of Baton Rouge that he is doing poorly in the new offense Gary Crowton is installing, though he has heard few rumblings generally. Blake Mitchell has more time in the system and more playing time, but that might not be the best thing for him to lean on given the results. ADVANTAGE: PUSH
Wide receivers. LSU loses almost 1,800 receiving yards with the departures of Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis, but Early Doucet is a capable replacement as the No. 1, hauling in 59 passes for 772 yards and 8 scores last season. Both teams lack a proven No. 2. ADVANTAGE: PUSH
Running backs. The Tigers rushed for around 166 yards a game last year with no apparent leader on the ground. Jacob Hester returns as the fullback after leading the team with 440 yards and 6 TDs last season. Keiland Williams rushed 436 yards and 5 scores. With Boyd and Davis, this could be the only solace for the Gamecocks. ADVANTAGE: SOUTH CAROLINA
Defensive line. Tyson Jackson returns after logging 8.5 sacks in the 2006 campaign. The rest of the line isn't exactly the most solid in the world, but Bo Pelini hasn't put a bad squad on the field since coming to LSU. Last year, the Tigers put the QB on the ground 39 times. ADVANTAGE: LSU
Surprisingly, he accounted for just one of those sacks.
Linebackers. Darry Beckwith returns from a 65-tackle 2006. Ali Highsmith and Luke Sanders flank him. None have particularly impressive numbers, but great things are expected from them this year. ADVANTAGE: PUSH
Secondary. Despite the loss of LaRon Landry, the Tigers are still stacked in the defensive backfield. Johnathan Zenon had 4 INTs, returned them for a total of 81 yards and scored twice. Craig Steltz also picked off four passes, returning them a total of 111 yards. Chevis Jackson broke up 14 passes. Free safety could be the one weakness. ADVANTAGE: LSU
So when your team allows 1,032 kick return yards, is that a bad thing if the reason for that is that you kicked the ball off 52 times? Doucet was nothing special in kick returns, which he will do this year, and had limited experience returning punts, something he will likely also handle. ADVANTAGE: PUSH
Please. Steve Spurrier would mentally lap Les Miles before the LSU coach even figured out a race was being held. Despite being left with a full cupboard the last two years, Miles still doesn't have a conference crown to show for it. ADVANTAGE: SOUTH CAROLINA
Despite several pushes on individual units, the Tigers are the better team, and the game is played in Baton Rouge at night -- a tough win for anybody. If the Gamecocks are truly ready to aim for an SEC crown, they better keep the game competitive. But unless Spurrier knows something the rest of us don't, or LSU is just the beneficiary of undeserved hype, South Carolina will need a miracle to win. LOSS
REST OF THEIR SEASON
LSU is a preseason favorite to play their way to New Orleans for the NC game. With Arkansas imploding in pseudo-scandal and Alabama trying to recover from the Mike Shula Experiment, Auburn is the only thing keeping the LSU Tigers from a trip to Atlanta. They, too, will face LSU in the Bayou. And while anything can -- and usually does -- happen in that game, look for LSU to make good on the projections. Assuming, of course, that Les Miles can at least pretend to be sane for four months.