Dan Scott: Clemson-South Carolina Prediction


by - Correspondent -
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This is my eighth Clemson-Carolina week. It has been nothing like the previous seven.

Reasons?

Thanksgiving week, for one. That interruption of the usual festivities has been something new. Then there's been the distractions provided by other stories and/or rumors - Spurrier to Miami, illegal phone calls, etc.

But there's more to it. At least for me.

Clemson fans, at least the ones I've come across both on my radio show and out in public, are nervous. Normally an 8-win season heading into this game would have the Tiger faithful flying sky-high. But not this year.

Back-to-back losses to Virginia Tech and Maryland, coupled with a close win over N.C. State, have taken some of the air out of the Clemson balloon. The offense suddenly has had trouble scoring touchdowns, and rumblings of "too conservative" are being heard throughout the Nation.

Meanwhile, despite a 1-3 record in their team's last four games, South Carolina fans appear confident. Almost..., well, Cocky.

They point to the team's inspired play offensively, led by a resurgent Blake Mitchell at quarterback. They love the way their defense is playing under the inspirational Tyrone Nix.

Yet, the cynic would point out that the Gamecocks' have nothing like the momentum they had heading into this game last season. A year ago USC came into the game having won five straight SEC games - a first in school history. This season, they come in with just a win over Middle Tennessee in those last four games.

The others? Again, the cynic would say the Gamecocks played just well enough to lose.

So what to make of this year's game?

Can Mitchell continue his hot hand against the Tigers' defense? Can Gaines Adams and Co. get enough pressure on him to rattle his cage?

Can Will Proctor make enough big plays in the passing game to get Clemson's offense rolling? Will the Tigers find the end zone, and not settle for field goals?

And finally, who really has the momentum heading into this game?

In the end, it really doesn't matter. When 80,000-plus people crowd Death Valley, the TV lights go on and the ball is placed on the tee, both teams are going to be loaded with confidence. The previous 11 games this season won't mean a thing.

But what about the series history? Will that mean anything?

Clemson has won four in a row and eight of the last nine between the teams. Yet only once in school history have the Tigers won five straight.

The Clemson seniors have never lost to USC. The Gamecock seniors, well to close their careers 0-4 vs. Clemson would be almost too much to bear.

Yet the guess here is that's exactly what will happen.

Fate shines on Clemson in this matchup in ways that are difficult to explain. Long-time watchers of the series can come up with numerous examples. In my previous seven, I can think of a few:

- Dantzler-to-Gardner. Did he or didn't he?

- 63-17. Nobody saw that coming.

- A Clemson team that had serious issues running the football in 2002 closing out the game with - what else - a dominant running attack.

- South Carolina fumbling the opening kickoff two years ago, giving Clemson a quick score from which the Gamecocks never recovered.

So you can see that a fifth-straight win might be just the next step in fate's plan for this series.

But I won't leave Clemson fans in the hands of fate. Or stuck with just my pick - which is Clemson by six. No, I went to a higher source. An undefeated source around these parts that even fate can't touch.

BECKY SEZ

Clemson 28, USC 20

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