COLUMBIA – With a No. 3 national ranking and the national attention that accompanies it, the South Carolina football team team has become the hunted.
One of the most challenging places for a team in that position to play is in Baton Rouge, La., where the Gamecocks take on No. 8 LSU at 8 p.m. Saturday (ESPN) at 92,542-seat Tiger Stadium, also known as Death Valley.
USC Coach Steve Spurrier understands the test his team faces, but he believes he is taking a mature squad into that environment.
“It can turn south on you if you don’t watch it,” Spurrier said. “We’re just trying to guard against going south and we’re totally ready to play this week. This is a good team. This a team that could do some stuff, but we’ve got a lot of good teams to play in the next four weeks. We’ll try to do our best and see what happens.”
Spurrier, who owns an 11-3 record against LSU and is 5-2 at Tiger Stadium, lost his only game against LSU as coach of the Gamecocks, a 28-16 loss in 2007 in Baton Rouge.
He found time to make a little fun of his team’s situation, however. When asked what’s it like to have to run, with his team, past a huge caged tiger, he was ready with a response.
“The tiger doesn’t play defense or offense for them,” Spurrier said, “not yet anyway.”
“It’ll be very, very loud, just like it was loud for Georgia last week,” Spurrier said. “That’s part of the game — that the home crowd gets to yell and scream at you. Hopefully, when we pick up the football, guys watch the ball and we won’t have a bunch of offsides and things like that. We’ll try and concentrate on playing our assignments as best we can. That’ll give us plenty to think about.”
USC senior free safety D.J. Swearinger said last week’s Georgia win was great and brought accolades, but that is history.
“It was kind of nice, but we have moved on. In fact, that’s what I told the guys at practice Monday. We are a long way from our goal, and there is a lot of work left to do.”
“This goes back to the summer,” Swearinger said. “We put in a lot of hard work, the seniors getting the other guys to buy in since it is our last season. We always say, ‘from the beginning to the top.’ There is only one way to the top, winning every game.”
The game marks the second in a brutal stretch for South Carolina. Next week, the Gamecocks travel to No. 6 Florida, which plays on a field nicknamed “The Swamp.”
For today, however, LSU has USC’s full attention.
“They were preseason No. 1 in the nation, so there was a reason for that — mostly people felt they had the best team in the country back then,” Spurrier said of LSU. “Their offense probably hasn’t played as well as they hoped, but defensively they’re a tough bunch of guys that don’t give up much.”
South Carolina will take a new look to Baton Rouge — all-gray uniforms.
“Under-Armour wanted us to wear one and they sort of selected this game for dark jerseys on the road,” Spurrier said. “Our players looked at them this summer and really liked them, so we’re going to wear some of the gray, but we’ve still got white helmets and all of that. ... We’ll look a little different out there Saturday night.”