When South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier is able to crack jokes at the expense of an in-state rival, then you know he's in a good mood.
"Most of our guys have never been to Death Valley," Spurrier said during his Tuesday news conference. "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. Was LSU the first one or the second one? They were first? Oh, okay."
Who can blame him for his humor? The Gamecocks (6-0, 4-0 SEC) are in the hunt for the SEC East title and a whole bunch more after they throttled the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs Saturday night in Columbia.
On top of that, Spurrier's got one of the best defenses in the country, one of the best running backs in the country, and one of the SEC's most efficient quarterbacks on his team.
And let's not forget the gift (or curse, depending on your perspective) of college football analysts giving Spurrier's squad plenty of credit in the week following the Georgia game.
But on-air accolades and positive paper coverage mean nothing in the tough SEC, and Spurrier's team is now jumping head first into a brutal two-week stretch that should test the theory that the Gamecocks will represent the East in the SEC Championship.
The Gamecocks head to Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Saturday to face an LSU team seemingly ready to bounce back after losing to the Florida Gators 14-6 last week.
Offensive woes have plagued last year's SEC champions and LSU is looking to put some points on the board and keep bruising defensive end Jadeveon Clowney away from quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
Clowney made his presence known during the Georgia game, keeping Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray scrambling and helping to stop Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall from getting past the line of scrimmage.
The sophomore defensive lineman will play against with a largely beat up LSU offensive line, which has had trouble protecting Mettenberger in the first six games of the season.
Offensive problems aside, the Gamecocks will have to battle history and the stadium noise more than LSU's stifling defense.
According to LSU, the Tigers have gone 30-1 in night games at Death Valley under Les Miles. On top of that, list after list after list have called Tiger Stadium one of the most difficult places to play for a visiting team.
"It's a tough place to play, loud and screaming," said Spurrier. "We won't be able to audible like we did last week. Last week, we changed a whole bunch of plays, so hopefully, we get the right one called at the beginning and go from there."
South Carolina will also have to face the demons of the past in order to get past the Tigers. In their last visit at Baton Rouge in 2007, Miles called a fake field goal on a 4th down to deflate the South Carolina defense and help to secure a 28-16 win.
But these Gamecocks are hoping history will be a non-factor in this game in their quest for an SEC Championship.
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