Tigers look to stay undefeated with a fifth straight win over the Gamecocks
Thanksgiving weekend in the Palmetto State means that South Carolina and Clemson will again do battle. This year, Memorial Stadium will do the holiday hosting, and the Tigers are almost unbeatable there, having lost just once at home in the past five seasons.
South Carolina has won all six of its games against unranked teams, but the Gamecocks are 0-4 versus teams that were in the Top 25 when the game was played. Clemson, obviously, is near the top of all the polls and has beaten the Gamecocks four straight times.
South Carolina at Clemson
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 24 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Clemson -25
Three Things to Watch
1. Protecting Jake Bentley
When playing Clemson, the first order of business is to try to do anything to slow down that defensive line. Most of the time, they wreak havoc anyway. South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley has had a pretty solid season, completing over 65% of his throws with 19 touchdowns. He also has three quality targets in Deebo Samuel, Bryan Edwards and Shi Smith. Plus, the Gamecocks have done a decent job protecting Bentley, which is important considering that he’s not the most nimble quarterback. The South Carolina offensive line will have to play its best game of the year, because it's facing the best defensive line in America.
2. Travis Etienne could have a day
Clemson's sophomore running back has had a number of big games, but the matchup with the Gamecocks sets up very well for sizable rushing totals. Other than the 6-foot-6, 305-pound Javon Kinlaw, USC is not loaded with big bodies on the defensive line. In the recent game against Florida, South Carolina gave up 367 yards rushing and missed countless tackles. Etienne is big, strong and fast, and he will make Carolina pay for any defensive miscue.
3. Getting the Clemson offense off the field
South Carolina has done a fairly good job of limiting big plays this season, something they need to continue against Clemson. If the Tigers hit on multiple big plays, USC has no chance. But what the Gamecocks also must do is stop the Clemson offense from converting its third-down chances. Putting the Tigers in longer down-and-distance situations is important, and then sending Etienne, Trevor Lawrence and the rest of the Clemson offense to the bench is vital.
This is a tall task for the Gamecocks. They have not fared well against quality competition this year, and now they go on the road to face the second-ranked Tigers. And this is a Clemson squad that is two wins away from its fourth consecutive playoff appearance. Clemson will get Etienne going early on, and that will open up all kinds of options for the offense. The South Carolina offensive line will compete early on, but as it gets worn down, things will go downhill fast. Clemson finishes a perfect regular season by dismantling the Gamecocks.
Prediction: Clemson 42, South Carolina 14
— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.