State bragging rights will be on the line come high noon on Saturday. Both teams have had their peaks and valleys throughout the season. Even though South Carolina is already bowl eligible, this game on Saturday will likely determine whether the season is a success or failure. This game impacts everything from coaches to family feuds.
One big play may be a deciding factor in this game.. The two offenses are coming off of performances that are better left forgotten. Airese Currie and Troy Williamson are the only two players that will draw respect from opposing defenses. Currie and Williamson will need help from their respective supporting casts.
Curtis Baham, Chansi Stuckey, or Ben Hall need to take the pressure off Currie. If another receiving threat emerges early, it may open some things up for Currie. It was very noticeable against Duke that Currie was the only player who scared Ted Roof’s defense.
South Carolina will need to find away to alleviate the pressure off of Williamson. It was evident against Florida without Williamson how important he was to this offense. Noah Whiteside is the Gamecocks number two target. Whoever plays quarterback for the Gamecocks, Syvelle Newton will start, has to find a way to get Williamson the ball. Stopping Williamson may hold the key to a Tigers victory.
The two defenses appear to be headed in different directions headed into this game. South Carolina has given up 43, 32, and 48 points in the last three games. This unit played very well early in the year, but has struggled as of late. True freshmen Ko Simpson has been the difference on this football team. Simpson has made big play after big play for this team. The secondary was clearly the biggest problem for South Carolina the last time these two teams met. South Carolina’s front four will need to get pressure on Charlie Whitehurst to help South Carolina’s secondary. If Whitehurst has time to be comfortable in the pocket, there is some damage that can be done. Defensive coordinator Rick Minter may be more aggressive in this game than he has been in the first 10 games. Pressuring Whitehurst is a focal point of the Gamecock defense.
Clemson’s defense has carried the load since a 1-4 start. The secondary has led the improved play of the defense. Justin Miller and Tye Hill have started playing like potential All-ACC corners. Both will have their hands full covering Williamson. A key part that should not go unnoticed is the pressure Clemson has been able to create often only rushing four. Eric Coleman has started playing extremely well. He is a leader not only on this defense, but for this football team.
Containing the Gamecocks ground attack will be the first order of business. The Tigers want to make Syvelle Newton beat them with his arm. Newton appears to be close to 100% and the Tigers will have to respect his running abilities. One thing that could be a factor is the Tigers could have to face at least 3 quarterbacks on Saturday maybe 4. Whoever is the quarterback for the Gamecocks, the Tiger defense must set the tone early in the game.
Duke may have exposed a weakness by doing everything possible to keep the ball out of Justin Miller’s hands in the return game. CJ Gaddis, Stuckey, or Currie must help out if the Gamecocks choose a similar strategy against Miller. Miller is far and away the most dangerous playmaker on Clemson’s team. It will interesting to see if Miller is used more on offense this week to try and create a spark. Jad Dean has separated himself from Stephen Furr in the kicking game. Dean has been near perfect since taking over. Dean’s effectiveness depends heavily on confidence. .
After the Vanderbilt game, South Carolina has struggled in the return game. Holtz has never been able to find a consistent threat in the return game. Josh Brown has given the Gamecocks a consistent place kicker. Brown is 10-13 on the year, and 2-2 from beyond 40 yards.
Both teams are consistently inconsistent. This will be a low scoring battle that may very well come down to the final play. These two teams are not strangers to close games, and neither will fold. The Tigers have more to play for with a bowl game on the line, and you never know how South Carolina will respond to the coaching news. The game will come down to turnovers and special teams, and I give Clemson a slight edge on Saturday.