COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -South Carolina had a chance to beat the No. 2 team in the nation a year ago and let it slip away.
The 12th-ranked Gamecocks are out to finish the job Saturday against second-ranked LSU.
``It all depends on who's going to believe it more,'' Gamecocks running back Cory Boyd said. ``Who has the confidence and the strength of themselves, to dig deep?''
South Carolina came close to upsetting No. 2 Auburn last season - tight end Jared Cook had a pass go off his hands in the fourth quarter that could have tied the game. Instead, the Tigers left Columbia with a 24-17 victory.
The Gamecocks (3-0) have won eight of 11 games since then.
South Carolina was 3-1 a year ago when undefeated Auburn came to Williams-Brice Stadium for a Thursday night game.
Auburn couldn't get clear of the Gamecocks until the end, even though South Carolina didn't run a play in the third quarter.
It looked like the Gamecocks would tie it in the fourth quarter, but Syvelle Newton's perfectly thrown pass bounced off of Cook's hands as the receiver was crossing the goal line.
Now, almost a year later, another powerful No. 2 stands in the way of South Carolina's rise.
``We've got to go out and play harder than we have before,'' Gamecock linebacker Jasper Brinkley said.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has taken a realistic approach to Saturday's game in Baton Rouge, La. He knows his Gamecocks are more than two-touchdown underdog. He's seen tape of LSU's talented team. He's watched the early struggles of his own offense.
He's not about to tell his club they match up well with LSU. Instead, Spurrier has cautioned a big defeat - if it comes - doesn't mean the end of the season.
Like the Auburn game a year ago, the rest of South Carolina's SEC season was defined by similar close losses. The Gamecocks fell to Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida, all by a touchdown or less, for a 3-5 league mark - Spurrier's first losing SEC season.
Spurrier said Newton was mobile enough to make plays against Auburn despite so-so pass protection from his line.
Newton ``made a lot of plays on his own'' against Auburn, Spurrier said. ``We don't have a scrambler quarterback right now.''
Spurrier said the Gamecocks must count on their defense to keep it close at Death Valley, much as it did two weeks back in a 16-12 victory at Georgia, which pushed South Carolina into the Top 25.
A solid performance from quarterback Blake Mitchell wouldn't hurt, either.
The fifth-year senior had three interceptions and a fumble a week ago against South Carolina State. Because of that, Spurrier mostly ran the ball in the second half of the Gamecocks' 38-3 victory.
LSU better be ready to stop the run, Tiger coach Les Miles said.
``They are known for their throwing game, but the reality is they are running the football as productively and efficiently as they have ever run it,'' he said.
Boyd and Mike Davis each rushed for more than 100 yards last week.
``You hear so much about the other team that you forget that we've got playmakers over here as well,'' Boyd said. ``As long as we're on our game plan, I think we've got a good chance to shock the world once again.''

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