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 both 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 now ranked higher than any time 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 upset losses there, a 28-21 setback in 1997, when he was coach of the No. 1 and defending national champion Gators and the Tigers were ranked 14th.
This time it won’t technically be an upset if South Carolina (6-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) fails to make it out of Louisiana’s version of Death Valley with its record still unblemished. No. 9 LSU (5-1, 1-1) has been listed as a slight favorite by odds makers, even after losing for the first time this season last week at Florida.
Although LSU’s offense stagnated in a 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. Such a run would put them right back in the national championship picture.