Why Clemson Will Win, and How -- Dan Scott column

by - Correspondent -

You've heard all the rhetoric. You've had enough of talk radio. You're even tired of the Internet.

Ask a thousand different people, and you'll get a thousand different opinions:

Who, you wonder, will win today's Clemson-South Carolina showdown at Death Valley, and why?

Never fear, dear flustered reader. That's why I'm here, to answer such complex questions and ease your troubled mind.

The answer? Clemson.

The reasoning? Read on.

Reason No. 1 -- Clemson's offense vs. South Carolina's defense:

Yes, I know how spectacular the Gamecock defense can be, and I realize Clemson's offensive production has waned somewhat as the competition has stiffened down the stretch. Still, the Tigers' multiple-formation, no-huddle, fast-paced offense tends to wear down a defense as the game moves along (unless your defense happens to say "Florida State" across the front of its jersey, but that's another story).

Florida showed last week how a wide-open, quick-strike attack can render South Carolina vulnerable, and even with a hobbled Woody Dantzler you have to believe having two weeks to prepare for the Gamecocks helped expose weaknesses in their defensive alignment.

Besides, Clemson has not so much a secret weapon, but a smoking gun that ultimately will be the difference. But more on that later.

Reason No. 2 -- South Carolina's offense vs. Clemson's defense:

Again, I must state the obvious. Clemson's pass defense has been, to be kind, pathetic. The defensive line's pass rush has been flat as old beer, and lately the secondary couldn't cover a bed with a blanket.

Having said that, the Tigers still have two distinct advantages. First, South Carolina's offensive line is beat up again, which should allow for Terry Jolly and Co. to get a decent push up front.

Secondly, while Phil Petty is a much-improved quarterback over a year ago, make no mistake -- Chris Weinke or George Godsey he ain't. Besides, for all the hoo-ha about South Carolina's no-huddle offense, the Gamecocks still rest their laurels on the two-headed running attack of Derek Watson and Andrew Pinnock.

Clemson's run defense has been solid all season, and if Watson gets smacked around early he has a habit of fumbling and disappearing.

Reason No. 3 -- Special teams.

The kicking game may well be a wash in this one, at least from a field goal standpoint, but the Tigers have been steadily improving in most other facets of special teams play.

They'll have to be on the ball this afternoon, given the punt-blocking exhibition the Gamecocks put on in Florida last week. Watch for kick coverage and punt returns to favor Clemson.

Reason No. 4 -- Willie Simmons.

Simmons, the aforementioned smoking gun, will be the X-factor in this one.

It's not a matter of if he plays, but when. Tommy Bowden said so himself earlier this week. Dantzler's ankle won't allow him to play the entire game.

It's no secret that Simmons is a better passer than Dantzler, and that's what ultimately will decide this one. Taking his cue from the Florida game film, Simmons will dissect the South Carolina secondary with enough quick outs and crossing patterns to nullify the soft, sometimes eight-man drop the Gamecocks use.

Final score? Clemson 31, South Carolina 24.

Next time check here first.

It will be much easier on your nervous system.

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