South Carolina is enjoying its best national ranking since the mid-1980s after last week's marquee victory, but the Ol' Ball Coach isn't ready to deem the season a success quite yet.
The visiting No. 3 Gamecocks continue through a gauntlet of quality foes when they look to extend a school-record 10-game winning streak Saturday night against No. 9 LSU, which is coming off a rare regular-season defeat.
South Carolina (6-0, 4-0 SEC) dominated then-No. 5 Georgia 35-7 last week, marking the first time it has won its first four SEC games since 2001.
The victory shot the Gamecocks to their highest position in the poll since being ranked No. 2 in 1984 - also the last time they started 7-0 overall. They last won their first six games in 1988.
"We certainly like where we are right now, but we're smart enough to know it's still a difficult, difficult road for us," coach Steve Spurrier said. "The goal was not to just beat Georgia and get to 6-0. The team knows we're only halfway there. We're going to try and hit our goals."
Last Saturday began a stretch in which the Gamecocks could potentially face three consecutive top-10 teams, as they host No. 4 Florida next week.
They end the season - as usual - with their in-state rival, No. 16 Clemson.
"It's a challenge what we're going through as far as playing all these ranked teams. Again, that's just the way it is. That's what the schedule is and we're looking forward to it," Spurrier said. "Most of our guys have never been to Death Valley. We haven't talked to our team about the stadium too much. They know it will be loud and crazy."
The raucous crowd will provide continuous support for LSU (5-1, 1-1) as it seeks a 22nd straight home victory while hoping to move past last week's 14-6 loss to Florida.
The Tigers hadn't dropped a non-bowl game since falling 31-23 to Arkansas on Nov. 27, 2010.
"It is an interesting thing, too, because for the first time in a year and a half we are talking about a regular-season loss, and it is miserable for us," coach Les Miles said. "Our football team is not enjoying it and certainly our coaching staff (isn't, either)."
LSU's offense may need a better performance if it hopes to avoid dropping two straight for the first time since 2008. Its 200 total yards were its fewest in a regular-season game since gaining 162 in its most recent home loss, 13-3 to No. 1 Florida on Oct. 10, 2009.
"There are a lot of different things that factor into it ... but I can assure you that all of our mistakes are correctable," said Zach Mettenberger, who finished 11 for 25 for 158 yards and an interception against the Gators. "We've just got to take care of business and get them corrected."
The Tigers' chances of returning to the BCS title game would take another hit with a loss Saturday, but a victory over the nation's third-ranked team would likely put them right back in the national championship discussion.
"It's a perfect situation," safety Eric Reid said. "We had a tough loss, but at the same time, we can have a big win this Saturday."
Linebacker Kevin Minter fell one short of the school record with 20 tackles last week for a defense that held Florida's high-powered offense to 237 yards.
"This was probably our best game that we played, especially with the competition we were going against," Minter said. "Florida has a ridiculous amount of talent."
There's no shortage of it on the South Carolina offense, either, as Heisman Trophy candidate Marcus Lattimore is coming off his third 100-yard rushing performance to go along with nine touchdowns.
Lattimore has never faced the Tigers, though, as these teams will be meeting for the first time since LSU won 24-17 on Oct. 18, 2008, for its fourth straight win over South Carolina.
The Gamecocks' last victory in the series was 18-17 on the road Oct. 1, 1994.
- South Carolina