Clemson vs South Carolina Prediction
Really? Are we really down to the last regular season game? It is hard to believe that the season has gone by this fast, even though it always does. However, unlike past seasons, the Clemson Tigers have some of their most exciting moments yet to be played, and it all starts this Saturday when the Tigers take a trip down to Williams-Brice for the 107th meeting with the arch-rival Gamecocks. The Gamecocks had a bye week last week, and I took the opportunity to check out some of their message boards, and Gamecock fans have been downright….testy. And they should be, as they have dropped three in a row and four of five. In fact, since their win over Kentucky way back on Oct. 10th, the Gamecocks have exactly one win, and that was over Vanderbilt. As a result, South Carolina fans are putting far more emphasis on this game than they have in years past, and it has been downright entertainment to read their boards. One fan said last week, just before the Tigers kicked it off against Virginia, that they wished South Carolina could play a team like Virginia (hello, you did, they are called Vanderbilt). Anyway, no matter how much South Carolina has been struggling and how well the Tigers have been playing, it is a rivalry game. And this one should be a good one.
Clemson at South Carolina
When Clemson Has the Ball
The Clemson offense has been on a roll of late, and it’s no surprise that redshirt freshman Kyle Parker has been making good decisions and has also made some eye-popping plays. He will have to continue his good play if the Tigers are going to score on a tough South Carolina defense. Look for Clemson’s game plan to resemble last year’s game plan in many respects as the Tigers try to run the football early and often behind fullback Chad Diehl. The Gamecocks have been gashed by good running teams recently, and the Tigers will try to exploit the Gamecock front seven in the same way. The Gamecocks like to bring an extra linebacker up on the line to try and slow the opponents’ rushing attack, and if that happens you have to like Clemson’s chances on play-action or getting C.J. Spiller or Jacoby Ford 1-on-1 with a defender. One pundit said this week that Clemson has not faced a defense like Carolina’s yet this season. I think they were wrong – they face a better one every day in practice. Limit the turnovers, run the football, and perhaps take advantage of the over-aggressive Eric Norwood, and Clemson should be able to move the football. However, the South Carolina defense has size and speed, and is ranked 17th nationally in total defense.
ADVANTAGE – EVEN
When South Carolina Has the Ball
Just as important as running the football should be for the Tigers, the same will be said of the Gamecocks. The South Carolina rushing attack has been awful, and it has forced quarterback Stephen Garcia and the Carolina wide receivers to shoulder the load. If Garcia can take advantage of Clemson’s inability to stop the read option, or if one of Carolina’s backs can get hot enough to force the Tigers to respect the running game, this offense can score some points. However, that simply hasn’t happened to this point, and expect Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier to get frustrated at some point and try to have Garcia put it up in order to the ball to talented receiver Alshon Jeffery. Garcia has plenty of talent, and has play makers on the outside, so getting pressure on him and forcing him to make quick decisions is the key for the Tigers. Pressure on Garcia will equal turnovers.
ADVANTAGE – CLEMSON
Spiller and Ford have to be salivating at the thought of facing Carolina’s 108th-ranked kickoff coverage teams. The big question on special teams will be whether Spurrier decides to kick to the Clemson duo, or kick short and rely on his defense to hold the Tiger offense in check. That should be a great matchup to watch. Clemson’s kicking game seemed to get back on track last week, with kicker Richard Jackson’s stride noticeably more in synch, while Carolina’s Spencer Lanning has been outstanding – hitting 23-of-24 extra points and 15-of-17 field goals. Clemson has the advantage on returns, while Carolina’s kicker is more consistent. Now, we wonder, will Spurrier kick it………
ADVANTAGE – Slight to CLEMSON
Whatever the Clemson coaching staff is doing, they just need to keep doing it. Clemson is focused and physical, and have been playing well on both sides of the ball. Carolina has one group of fans that want to see Spurrier ride off into the sunset, and another group that thinks the Ole Ball Coach can turn things around in Columbia. Maybe he can, and it might start this week. However, and this is just a personal opinion, I would MUCH rather have Clemson’s staff coaching my team.
ADVANTAGE – CLEMSON
All of the intangibles once point toward an opponent having more to play for than the Tigers. Carolina wants to go to a better bowl than loss would send them to – like Birmingham or Shreveport – and frankly, they are tired of losing to the Tigers. Nothing would make Carolina fans any happier than to have their team, which limped to a 3-5 record in the SEC, team knock off the ACC Atlantic Division champs. Look for the Carolina team to come out jacked up, riled up, and ready to play. A big key could be if the Tigers can survive the initial rush by the Gamecocks, and limit any game-changing turnovers. If they can do that, there is one fact that can’t be disputed, and that is that Clemson’s offensive line is playing better than Carolina’s defensive line, and Clemson’s defensive line is much better than Carolina’s offensive line. If games are won and lost in the trenches, then Clemson has the bigger advantage. That was a huge part of last year’s game. So……..Carolina gets up early and their defense keeps it close. In the end, however, Clemson comes back and takes over the last three quarters.
CLEMSON 26, CAROLINA 17