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Clemson Tigers vs. South Carolina Gamecocks Preview and Prediction

Kelly Bryant

Kelly Bryant

After beating in-state FCS opponents this past weekend, both Clemson and South Carolina are ready for the Palmetto Bowl. For Clemson, this game is huge as the Tigers are in the College Football Playoff hunt. For South Carolina, this game is huge because Clemson is in the playoff hunt. The boys from Columbia would love nothing more than to knock the Tigers out of their No. 2 ranking.

Will Muschamp College Football

For the Gamecocks, who come in at 8-3, the game certainly means more than just that. A 10-win season is still a possibility, and that would make head coach Will Muschamp’s second season a rousing success. But beyond records and national rankings, this is a bitter rivalry, and South Carolina still has the taste of last year’s 56-7 pasting in its mouth.

Clemson leads the all-time series 68-42-4.

Clemson at South Carolina

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 25 at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Clemson -14

Three Things to Watch

1. South Carolina doing the little things right

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If you look at the Gamecocks’ season statistics, you will notice that they have been outgained by their opponents. So how are they 8-3? Muschamp’s crew has excelled in three areas: turnover margin, forcing field goals in the red zone and limiting penalties. Those strengths will be especially important this week, as Clemson does a great job of converting inside the 20 and is plus-three in turnover margin. To beat a team as talented as Clemson, South Carolina will have to continue to be effective where it has been strong all year.

2. Clemson defensive line

A South Carolina offensive line that has not done a great job opening holes in the running game and has allowed 25 sacks on the year had better up its game, because the Clemson defensive line is coming to town. Clellin Ferrell has had a huge second half of the season and had five tackles for a loss against NC State alone. With Austin Bryant on the other end and Christian Wilkins inside, the Clemson defensive line is something to watch every week.

3. Quarterback battle

Because South Carolina doesn’t have a great running game, a lot has been asked of sophomore quarterback Jake Bentley, and as a result his play has been a bit inconsistent. He has led the Gamecocks to that 8-3 record, but he has also had his struggles against better defenses. In consecutive games against Florida and Georgia, Bentley threw a total of five interceptions. Clemson's Kelly Bryant has been outstanding since returning to action following his ankle injury, completing 64 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and just one interception. Proving that his injury is fully healed, he has also run for 220 yards and three scores.

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Final Analysis

Following the great run by Steve Spurrier at South Carolina that saw five straight Gamecock wins in the Palmetto Bowl, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has turned the tables and has won three in a row of his own. Of course, Clemson has had success against just about everyone over the past four years. South Carolina has had a successful season regardless of the outcome in this game, and Will Muschamp has the Gamecocks on the right path. But for the most part, South Carolina has found a way to survive games this year and has not looked like a team that is on Clemson’s level. It will obviously be closer than last year's matchup, but Clemson will win and set up a de facto national quarterfinal against Miami in the ACCChampionship Game.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Clemson

Prediction: Clemson 33, South Carolina 17

— 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.