When the tide turned in the Palmetto Bowl, it turned in a big way. From 2009 to 2013, the Gamecocks were the kings of the state, winning five straight games and emerging as a national contender.
But in 2014, everything changed. Clemson broke their losing streak to South Carolina with a win at home. Now, the Tigers are undefeated and ranked No. 1, while South Carolina is 3-8, coming off a loss to the Citadel, and looking for a new head coach after the midseason resignation of Steve Spurrier.
Despite Carolina’s five-year run, Clemson holds a 62-40-4 edge in the series.
Clemson at South Carolina
Kickoff: 12:00 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Clemson -17.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Pharoh Cooper
Obviously, there has been little for South Carolina fans to cheer about this season, but the junior from Havelock, N.C. has once again been a bright spot. His numbers have dipped from his exceptional 2014 campaign, but that has more to do with those around him — and more specifically those throwing him the ball — than Cooper himself. He will have a battle on Saturday going up against the Clemson secondary led by Mackensie Alexander, who is likely to return after missing the Wake Forest contest with a knee injury.
2. Stopping Wayne Gallman
The sophomore has over 1,000 yards through 11 games. Expect him to add to that total this weekend as he faces the nation’s 114th ranked rush defense. With Deshaun Watson always a threat to beat an opponent by throwing to his talented group of receivers, the Gamecocks obviously cannot load up to stop the run. Gallman sat out the Wake Forest game with a minor ankle injury so the running game will also include touches for Zac Brooks, C.J. Fulller, and Kelly Bryant. But Gallman will get his chances and will make the most of them.
3. Clemson Taking Care of Business to Remain No. 1
It’s still Clemson-South Carolina, but the dynamic is a little different this year. Frankly, South Carolina is terrible. The Tigers know that next week they have the ACC Championship game against North Carolina looming and they would be right to view that as a bigger hurdle. But Clemson’s performance the past few weeks, while solid, has dipped a bit from their dominant performances earlier this season. Dabo Swinney would be thrilled if his troops disregarded the Gamecocks’ record and focused on playing Tiger football.
There will be two teams on the field for this big rivalry game this Saturday, but this is really only about one squad. South Carolina will be wrapping up a dismal season while all eyes will be on the country's top-ranked team to see how they perform. The Gamecocks’ offense, short of Cooper, is not strong. They don’t run the ball well; they don’t pass the ball well. And now they face that rough, tough Clemson defensive unit. South Carolina will also have trouble stopping the Clemson rushing attack which will open up passing lanes for Watson. If Clemson is looking ahead to next week, they will beat the Gamecocks comfortably. If they are completely focused on their arch rival, they will bury South Carolina. I’m going with somewhere in between.
Prediction: Clemson 38, South Carolina 13
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.