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Can Clemson keep its BCS bowl hopes alive?
With conference play finished for South Carolina and Clemson, it’s all about bragging rights in the Palmetto State this Saturday. And even though the emotions will always keep this as a spirited rivalry, there’s plenty of motivation on both sides, so there’s a little extra spice when these two teams meet on Saturday.
With a 10-1 record, Clemson has a chance to earn an at-large spot in a BCS bowl. However, the Tigers need to get past their in-state rival to remain in consideration. The Gamecocks are still in the mix for a BCS bowl but with Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M, Florida and LSU ahead of them in the BCS standings, it’s unlikely Steve Spurrier’s team will be able to earn an at-large spot.
South Carolina has owned this rivalry in recent years, winning four out of the last six matchups. The Gamecocks won 34-13 in Columbia last season and 29-7 in Clemson in 2010.
When the Clemson Tigers have the ball:
Stopping Clemson is no easy task. Just ask the 11 defenses so far on the Tigers’ schedule. Florida State is the best defense Clemson has faced this year, and the Seminoles allowed 37 points in a victory.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd ranks second nationally in pass efficiency and has thrown 18 touchdowns over his last four games. Although the junior is one of the nation’s top passers, his improved mobility is a big reason why Clemson is averaging 44.6 points a game.
Boyd isn’t alone on offense, as Clemson boasts one of the top receiving corps in college football. DeAndre Hopkins leads the team with 68 catches for 1,171 yards and 15 scores, while Sammy Watkins has 53 receptions for 671 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end Brandon Ford has eight touchdown grabs and there’s plenty of depth with Martavis Bryant, Jaron Brown, Adam Humphries and Charone Peak. Running back Andre Ellington is having another solid season, recording 959 yards on 186 attempts.
Stopping Clemson’s offense has to start in the trenches. And South Carolina has the players to give Boyd plenty of problems on Saturday night. End Jadeveon Clowney is one of the nation’s best and is expected to play after missing last week’s game due to a foot injury. The Gamecocks are averaging three sacks a game, which figures to test a Clemson offensive line that has struggled at times this year.
If South Carolina can harass Boyd with just its front four, it will make the job of the secondary much easier as it tries to keep Hopkins and Watkins in check.
When the South Carolina Gamecocks have the ball:
The Gamecocks aren’t going to wow anyone on the stat sheet when it comes to offense. South Carolina ranks 81st nationally in rushing, 74th in passing but is 41st in scoring offense. Although the Gamecocks aren’t getting huge chunks of yardage, they are making the most of their opportunities.
With running back Marcus Lattimore sidelined for the rest of the year with a leg injury, Kenny Miles and Mike Davis have worked as the top two options in the rushing attack. Miles has 313 yards and two scores this year, while Davis has 232 yards and two touchdowns on 40 carries.
There’s no doubt the Gamecocks miss Lattimore, but Miles rushed for 127 yards in the win over Wofford. Additionally, quarterback Connor Shaw will chip in on the ground, as he ranks second on the team with 339 yards. Shaw has been dealing with a foot injury but is expected to play in Saturday’s game.
South Carolina may not be the most dynamic offense in the SEC, but it should find some open opportunities against Clemson’s defense. The Tigers are allowing over 408 yards per game and gave up 48 points in last week’s win over NC State. The Gamecocks need to have a balanced approach in this game, getting Miles 20-25 carries, while Shaw has a chance to hit a few big plays in the passing game.
Considering Clemson’s high-scoring offense can put up points in a hurry, it’s important for South Carolina’s offense to control the clock, as well as not give the Tigers any short-field situations.
This game may get overlooked on Saturday, especially with Florida taking on Florida State and the annual battle between Ohio State and Michigan. However, this game could be one of the more entertaining matchups of Week 13. Whichever side can impose its will should have the upper hand. Clemson wants to play quick on offense, but South Carolina’s front four will be a handful to stop. The Gamecocks are more methodical on offense and should be able to grind out the clock against the Tigers’ defense. This one is really a tossup, but a slight edge goes to Clemson, especially with this matchup in Death Valley.
Prediction: Clemson 27-24
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