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Clemson vs South Carolina prediction


  by - Senior Writer - Friday, November 23, 2012 12:31 PM
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It’s here. Rivalry week emerged earlier this week amid the clouds of conference realignment and expansion and has also had to share time with the trappings of a family holiday. On Saturday, however, the eyes of the Palmetto State will be focused on Clemson, where perhaps the most important game in the history of the rivalry will be played.

This will be the biggest game in the history of the rivalry when it comes to combined victories for the two programs entering the game. The two schools have combined for 19 wins entering the regular season finale, more than any other meeting in the history of the event. Clemson is 10-1 and South Carolina 9-2 entering the contest. It is actually the second straight year that record has been broken. Last year both schools were 9-2 entering the game for a total of 18 wins.

South Carolina has owned the series over the last three games of the series – convincingly – and Clemson’s seniors will not only be playing in their last game in Death Valley, but they will try and avoid the stain of never having won a game in the rivalry.

There’s no need to hype it. No need to use colorful words to get the fans worked up. Clemson hates South Carolina. South Carolina hates Clemson. South Carolina fans brag like they’re Alabama with Vanderbilt’s trophy case. Clemson fans know they can’t say anything – despite winning the ACC title and appearing in the championship game twice in the last three seasons – because it’s been over a thousand days since they’ve celebrated a win over their rival.

Old fashioned hate. Cold weather. Night game in the Valley. BCS dreams and national respect at stake.

Bring it on.

WHAT: No. 11 Clemson vs. No. 12 South Carolina
WHERE: Memorial Stadium (81,500) - Clemson, SC
WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 24 (7:15 p.m.)
SPREAD: Clemson by 3.5 TV: ESPN

WHEN SOUTH CAROLINA HAS THE BALL

Clemson fans have so many mental scars from the last three seasons – and especially last year in Columbia – that they fear South Carolina’s offense, a squad that is ranked 94th nationally. Obviously, running back Marcus Lattimore was the heart of the offense, but triggerman Connor Shaw is the one that ran all over Clemson last season. How much will he want to run this year with his assorted injuries? Over the last five weeks, he has been less than effective on the ground, gaining a grand total of 58 yards, so the Gamecocks will rely at first on running backs Kenny Miles and Mike Davis, who have rushed for 339 and 313 yards, respectively.

Clemson’s defense ranks 72nd nationally against the run, but has been better recently – once linebacker Spencer ShueySpencer Shuey
RS Jr. Linebacker
#33 6-3, 230
Charlotte, NC

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was inserted into the middle, everything settled down and it allowed the young defensive tackles to step up and make plays. If Shaw was completely healthy, he still might find the running lanes tough to get to. With him dinged up, my guess is that they roll him out of the pocket and let him have the run-pass option, making Clemson’s defensive line make plays in the open field. Last season, the Tigers played a man-to-man defense and Shaw took off once he saw the defenders’ backs turned. This season, the Tigers are in the zone, so Shaw might have to pass first. Speaking of the passing game – Spurrier’s offense has evolved into a run-first group, but the bigger plays have actually come through the passing game this season.

Clemson’s secondary has struggled – even that word is an understatement – against the pass this season, with injuries and busted plays all taking a toll. This week, Clemson’s toasted group has to cover Bruce Ellington, Ace Sanders and Damiere Byrd, who all are small and slippery and have no trouble getting behind defenses. The Tigers have also struggled with covering the tight ends as well, and Justice Cunningham has 20 catches for 261 yards, while Rory Anderson has 13 catches for 264 yards with five scores. This matchup should scare the daylights out of Clemson fans – imagine stops on first and second down, only to see Shaw roll out of the pocket on third and hit a tight end to keep the drive alive. It worked for N.C. State last week, and as long as Shaw stays healthy…

ADVANTAGE - SOUTH CAROLINA

WHEN CLEMSON HAS THE BALL

This is the glamorous matchup Saturday – Clemson’s 6th-ranked offense that is clicking on all cylinders against South Carolina’s 13th-ranked defense. However, this one is pretty simple – if Tajh BoydTajh Boyd
RS Jr. Quarterback
#10 6-1, 225
Hampton, VA

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gets time and the Tigers can mount some semblance of a running game against South Carolina’s front seven, the advantage is to the Tigers. Running the ball, however, won’t be easy. The Gamecocks have superlative talent at the end spots in Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor, while Byron Jerideau and Kelcy Quarles stop everything up the middle. As a result, South Carolina is 16th in the country in rushing defense, giving up an average of 116.64 yards per game. LSU and Wofford are the only two schools that have had any kind of success this season against South Carolina, but Clemson has found innovative ways to get Andre EllingtonAndre Ellington
RS Sr. Running Back
#23 5-10, 195
Moncks Corner, SC

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, Boyd and even the receivers touches in space and the Tigers are actually 30th in the nation in rushing – at just over 200 yards per game – despite being a pass-first offense.

And that brings us to Boyd, who was overwhelmed by South Carolina a year ago. The Gamecocks played physical on Clemson’s receivers, and Boyd felt the heat early. Offensive coordinator Chad MorrisChad Morris
Offensive Coordinator / QBs
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said earlier this week that Boyd was a “concrete deer” in that contest. A slimmer Boyd has been a force on the ground this season, and he has gotten better each week. He’s second on the team with 466 yards and has scored eight rushing touchdowns. The Tigers also have a nice complement to the starters in Rod McDowell, who averages 5.2 yards per carry.

In the passing game – South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward likes to employ the “rabbit” in certain situations, leaving his corners in man on the outside while bringing pressure with the four defensive ends he puts in on the line to rush the quarterback and disrupt plays. However, it will be interesting to see if Ward leaves his corners in man coverage on the outside, leaving them 1-on-1 with the likes of Nuk, Hopkins, Sammy WatkinsSammy Watkins
So. Wide Receiver
#2 6-1, 205
Fort Myers, FL

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, Martavis Byrant (who is averaging over 30 yards per catch) and Jaron “Third Down” Brown. Add in the tight ends, and Clemson’s passing attack is potent, ranking ninth nationally.

Once again, if Boyd has time, the big plays will be there. Can Clemson’s offensive line give him that time? Both Maryland and N.C. State entered their games against Clemson ranked at the top of the ACC in sacks, and neither laid a hand on Boyd. Clowney and company, however, are a different matter and the Tigers haven’t seen this type of defensive line talent since Florida St., which sacked Boyd twice in Tallahassee.

South Carolina is ranked 22nd nationally against the pass, but let’s be honest – they haven’t faced any passing attacks like this one this season. Florida? Vanderbilt? Missouri? Wofford? The closest thing they’ve seen to Clemson is Tennessee, which put of 471 yards of offense – 381 thought the air – in a game at South Carolina last month.

ADVANTAGE – SLIGHT TO CLEMSON

SPECIAL TEAMS

We start every week by saying that Clemson has a potent weapon in kicker Chandler CatanzaroChandler Catanzaro
RS Jr. Punter / Kicker
#39 6-2, 195
Greenville, SC

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, who has hit 15-of-16 field goals this season, and I think most Clemson fans would be comfortable if Catman had to hit a big kick to win a game. Adam Yates has hit 9-of-13 for South Carolina. Punting? Tyler Hull is averaging 39.58 yards per punt for South Carolina, while Clemson’s Spencer BentonSpencer Benton
RS Sr. Punter / Kicker
#13 6-1, 195
Myrtle Beach, SC

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and Bradley PinionBradley Pinion
Fr. Punter
#92 6-6, 230
Concord, NC

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have combined to average 38.41 yards per punt. South Carolina is 107th nationally in punting, Clemson is 108th.

The difference between the two schools might be in the return game – South Carolina’s Bruce Ellington has 285 yards on kickoff returns, while Ace Sanders ranks first in the country with 333 punt return yards. The Tigers were torched in the return game in Tallahassee, and they were torched last week.

The Tigers have looked close to breaking one each week, and South Carolina ranks 99th nationally in kickoff return defense (Clemson is 96th), but South Carolina’s returners are the ones that have made plays.

In the return game, South Carolina has a decided edge. In the kicking game, I like Catman.

ADVANTAGE – SLIGHT TO SOUTH CAROLINA

WHAT WILL HAPPEN

This one shows all the signs of being another classic between the two schools. One side is loaded with offensive talent, the other with defensive talent. Two coaches at opposite ends of their careers – the youngster with an entire career ahead of him but with success already in his pocket, the old guy with a ton of success on his resume and looking for a few last hurrahs.

Can Clemson stop the streak? Of course it can.

South Carolina will score points, no doubt about it. And in a close game, special teams can make all the difference, so keep it away from Carolina’s returners.

Will South Carolina sack Boyd and get pressure? Yes. Will it be enough? No, not the way Clemson’s offense has been playing.

To me, it comes down to this – both teams are playing well, but one team is playing lights out. Last year, it was the opposite. Boyd and company score enough points to win, earn some national respect and break the streak.

Spot the dang ball.

FINAL SCORE – CLEMSON 41, SOUTH CAROLINA 33


GUEST PREDICTIONS

Mickey Plyler - 6-9AM on WCCP 104.9FM EST - 34-27 Clemson
Dan Scott - Charter TV on Wed at 9:00pm EST - 41-34 Clemson
El Swann - TigerNet Talk - 42-24 Clemson
Pigskin Prophet - 38-28 Clemson


PREDICTION TRACKER

GameActualDavid HoodMickey PlylerDan ScottEl SwannPigskin Prophet
Auburn26-19 CU30-23 CU31-17 CU30-21 CU27-14 CU27-12 CU
Ball St52-27 CU47-20 CU44-21 CU52-21 CU49-10 CU48-23 CU
Furman41-7 CU52-17 CU52-17 CU-55-13 CU46-13 CU
FSU49-37 FSU37-31 FSU30-27 FSU31-28 CU31-27 CU34-30 FSU
BC45-31 CU37-23 CU38-23 CU38-21 CU42-17 CU45-33 CU
GT47-31 CU47-30 CU41-31 CU38-35 CU28-27 GT48-31 CU
VT38-17 CU44-31 CU38-20 CU41-27 CU42-30 CU34-24 CU
Wake42-13 CU41-17 CU38-24 CU34-31 CU45-17 CU45-31 CU
Duke56-20 CU48-24 CU41-27 CU49-24 CU52-24 CU52-20 CU
Maryland45-10 CU47-9 CU41-14 CU52-12 CU47-14 CU45-10 CU
NC State62-48 CU45-24 CU41-27 CU41-24 CU45-21 CU48-24 CU
Points - 1713121221

* Points: 3 pts for best prediction of the week (tiebreaker is Clemson score), 1pt for picking the correct winner

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