- Gary Laney, Reporter, GeauxTigerNation
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Ace Sanders said he can walk to classes at the University of South Carolina without ever getting asked about his football accomplishments because, at 5-foot-8, 175 pounds, nobody thinks he's actually a football player.
"I'm able to keep a level of anonymity," he said.
He's quickly making a name for himself as one of the SEC's most dangerous punt returners, averaging 15.5 yards a return, fifth best in the nation. He's a major topic conversation this week coming off his electrifying 70-yard touchdown return in last week's 35-7 rout of Georgia.
He'll be a challenge for the special teams of N. 9 LSU when the third-ranked Gamecocks visit Saturday in a 7 p.m., CDT ESPN game.
"We're going to have to turn it up a little bit on special teams this week, definitely," said LSU wide receiver Jarvis Landry, a mainstay in Tigers coverage teams.
The matchup could be a pivotal one in a game that pits two of the nation's top 11 defenses statistically. Both the Tigers and Gamecocks are willing to play a field position battle and few teams in the nation do it better than LSU, which is seventh in the nation in net punting (42.1 yards per punt).
South Carolina's success returning kicks should come as no surprise to LSU. Joe Robinson, a former LSU special teams coordinator, is now South Carolina's special teams coach. He was at LSU from 2008-2010 -- a stretch during which Trindon Holliday and Patrick Peterson were dominant kick returners -- before leaving for North Carolina, where he spent a season before moving to USC this season.
LSU replaced him with Thomas McGaughey, its current special teams coordinator, and has had continued special teams success.
Saturday Night in Death Valley: ESPN may have inadvertently done LSU a favor this week.
The usual 6 p.m. Saturday night kickoff for its SEC prime-time game is instead at 7 p.m. CDT start this week, so when the South Carolina at LSU game was picked for the prime-time game, it fell on the time slot LSU fans like most.
Before the era of TV contracts dictating kickoff, 7 p.m. was LSU's traditional starting time, a time that allowed for a full day of tailgating and for the sun to go down on warm September days. Those games mostly went away as the Tigers became a TV-era power, usually kicking off in the 6 p.m. hour, at mid-afternoon for the CBS game or -- and this is the worst-case scenario for Tiger tailgaters -- the 11 a.m. game.
LSU is 35-2 in home night games under Les Miles and has a 225-60-4 all-time record in night home games.
The Tigers home crowd, especially at night, can be particularly intimidating. Miles picked this week to make a plea to make it more loud.
"I want Tiger Stadium to be loud and a very difficult place to play for our opponent," he said.
Streaking: It's been a difficult place for a lot of opponents.
LSU comes into the South Carolina game with a 21-game home winning streak, a school record and the longest current home-field winning streak in the nation. LSU hasn't lost at home since the Tim Tebow-led and top-ranked 2009 Florida team beat LSU 13-3 on Oct. 10, 2011, exactly three years ago.
Not used to this: LSU is hoping to avoid something it hasn't experienced since 2008: Consecutive losses.
The Tigers last lost two straight in the final two games of the 2008 regular season when it dropped consecutive games to Ole Miss and Arkansas.
This is also the first time since a 2009 loss to Ole Miss that the Tigers have had to prepare to play a game the week after a loss. The only loss of 2011 was in the BCS championship game and in the two losses in 2010, the Tigers had a bye (after losing to Auburn) and the end of the regular season (after Arkansas).
"It's been a long time," linebacker Kevin Minter said. "It feels kind of funny. We have such a great tradition of winning in this program, it feels funny being at the other end of that."
The Ol' Tiger Killer: With all of these statistics about LSU's one success, here's one sobering statistic for LSU fans: South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is 11-3 all-time against LSU.
The good news for LSU is all of the wins were while he was the coach at Florida.
South Carolina also has a 10-game winning streak overall, the longest current streak in the FBS.
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