The last time LSU lost back-to-back games, George W. Bush held office in the White House and Ole Miss was a relevant force in college football.
The No. 9 Tigers (5-1) will attempt to stave off consecutive losses for the first time since 2008 when No. 3 South Carolina (6-0) barrels into Baton Rouge fresh off a dominating performance against then-No. 5 Georgia.
“Hopefully we come in with a bit of a chip on our shoulder,” said LSU junior linebacker Kevin Minter. “We have to win this one. We can’t lose any more or those national championship hopes are gone. We just have to buckle down and get to it.”
LSU finds itself in unfamiliar territory, having to prepare for a game the week following a loss — something they haven’t done since playing Arkansas after losing to Ole Miss in 2009.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier may be best known for his championship days in Gainesville, Fla., but the Ol’ Ball Coach has produced the first top-three team to come out of Gamecock Country since 1984 and only the second 6-0 team since 1988.
Spurrier has posted an 11-3 record against the Tigers dating back to his days with the Gators, but he has lost to LSU both times since taking over for the Gamecocks.
“South Carolina is a tremendous team,” said LSU coach Les Miles. “They have a good defense to go with a quality offense. ... It is going to take a great effort from us to play well.”
A pair of unmovable forces are on a crash course for destruction Saturday when two of the Southeastern Conference’s top defenses meet under the lights of Tiger Stadium.
The Gamecocks and Tigers rank in the top five of the SEC in almost every defensive category, including pass defense, turnovers and total defense.
With South Carolina’s offense posting the highest passing efficiency in the conference — 180.9 compared to LSU’s eighth-ranked 138 — and junior running back Marcus Lattimore continuing his Heisman candidate campaign, the battle in the trenches will be of paramount importance.
“South Carolina’s No. 1 priority is to stop the run,” senior tackle Alex Hurst said. “... Both ends are fast, and if they get past you, it’ll be a long night.”
The battle up front is only compounded by LSU’s struggles at the offensive line and the force that is the SEC’s highest-sacking defense led by the Gamecocks’ 6-foot-6, 256-pound sophomore defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. “If you can’t put five guys that are cohesive, know how to work together and understand the scheme, it’s a real issue,” Miles said. “And we’ve been fortunate that we’ve had that.”
But the Tigers have seen a flurry of issues on the offensive line this season, beginning with an abundance of injuries and resulting in LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger being taken down 15 times through six games.
The early-season loss of senior left tackle Chris Faulk has grown into a widespread epidemic among the rest of the offensive line, culminating in the third quarter against Florida when senior center P.J. Lonergan was the only player with any significant playing time before this year.
Junior guard Josh Williford is listed as questionable for South Carolina, and Miles alluded to Hurst also sitting out Saturday after he missed the majority of practice this week for what he called “personal issues that had not been resolved.”
“The biggest thing is to just continue to build chemistry,” Hurst said. “Going forward, you have to trust the guys are going to be there for you.”