That's happened this season. No doubt.
The Clemson line has got to keep Tajh Boyd clean. Absolutely.
Well, South Carolina's defensive front hasn't been as dominant lately. And certainly not as dominant as last season. Still, it's a quality, SEC defensive front. Gonna be a big key.
I kinda sorta waffle on the whole idea of Dabo being mentally affected by the Spurrier dynamic. Not that I don't think Spurrier irritates him, because he does ... but what does that have to do with picking up 3rd-and-12 in the second quarter? Not much.
That's a good question. Flip that on its side. I'll let Aaron take it...
One thing I'll say not as a Clemson beat writer or South Carolina beat writer or any kind of beat writer, but as someone who plays and knows sports: the Gamecocks better not spend one second worrying about any other game in this country. That's sports. Control what you control.
That is a good question. Roderick McDowell's been quietly effective this year, but hasn't really been explosive since that Georgia game, and that's a loooooong time ago. He really doesn't have a solid backup; McDowell's definitively the Tiger's best pass protection back, too. I think that's a deal where if Clemson can get 18 carries for 70-ish yards out of Rod, they'll take it.
Well, obviously, but this is a team that has shown a track record of not always being all there.
Obviously a very good South Carolina defensive front. McDowell averages 5.2 yards a carry. I think Clemson would accept 4 per clip out of him.
Aaron, does Clemson really need to run the ball to beat South Carolina? How important is balance? Especially as good as Tajh Boyd and Co. can be when all things are clicking.
Well, Clemson's got a very solid punter (Bradley Pinion) and kicker (Chandler Catanzaro). Returns haven't really factored in to any of their games this year; Adam Humphries is a serviceable PR. I'll let Ryan handle USC's side.
Oh absolutely, Clemson will have to run the ball at some point. Tajh Boyd's very good, but he's not a 500-yards-a-game passer, especially against a good defense like South Carolina's.
What should be the standard? How effective does Clemson have to be running the ball to win Saturday?
You know Tajh Boyd will take running attempts head-on, too. Hasn't really ever backed off of that, not even in the third quarter last week against the Citadel ... much to the chagrin of his coaches and fans.
Like I said, 18 rush for 70 yards or so out of McDowell would probably be all right. If Boyd chips in 40 or so gross yards (before sacks), picks up a few short-yardage first downs, maybe a goal-line TD, that'd suit the Tigers and what they want to do.
That's just an understanding that South Carolina's not gonna flat-line on rush D against Clemson. The Tigers know their bread is buttered in the passing game.
Anyway, special teams. Ryan?
I give the edge to South Carolina, no doubt. Elliott Fry has been a revelation as a freshman walk-on kicker this season, but that's the only bright spot. Steve Spurrier has been openly frustrated with his special teams most of the fall. USC needs to avoid making costly mistakes in that area. If not, could be a swinging point in the game.
So, in short, special teams will be extremely important from USC's side.
I meant I give the edge to Clemson, not South Carolina. But y'all already figured that out.
Real quick, we just got a release from the South Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. The following are finalists: Clemson's William Perry, Terry Kinard, Steve Fuller, Jeff Davis and Bennie Cunningham; South Carolina’s Sterling Sharpe and Jeff Grantz
Thoughts are that would be a wise idea. Kearse is a 6-4 safety, and a freshman who sometimes indulges a little too much. He's as likely to make a big play as he is to give up a big play. Which in these games, matter huuuuuuge.
Congrats to all finalists. Good stuff.
Believe it or not, Clemson had more tackles for loss than South Carolina, 8-7. Even with Clowney's 4.5.
Dylan Thompson was sacked four times last year. So I would say Clemson's offensive line got plenty of pressure. Can that be repeated with Connor Shaw and his mobility? That's the question.
*defensive line, it's been a long day
But I'll take your word that Clemson didn't get much pressure on Thompson, and that is a concern. While Vic Beasley is far better than he was last year (and an upgrade over Malliciah Goodman), Beasley's gone quiet the last few games, and Connor Shaw's quite mobile.
Ryan's one more typo away from getting yanked for Dylan Thompson :)
I think Ryan and I are going to hold our picks until later in the week ... but readers, what say you? Who you got?
In the meantime ... Ryan, three most important Gamecocks Saturday. Go.
Dabo Swinney said he believed Clemson would win last year. So, F for faith.
Two sacks the last six games. I'm a big proponent of Vic Beasley. But he's been noticeably less game-breaking since the Syracuse game.
Well, since the BC game (one week after Cuse.) He had a sack and that fumble-6, and won that hat trophy that goes to a Clemson or BC player. Ever since then ...
Little tease for you: there's a stat you won't quite believe involving Vic Beasley and Jadeveon Clowney. Coming up in Wednesday's Post and Courier.
South Carolina is fourth in the SEC in scoring defense, third in total. BC is 12th in the ACC in scoring defense, dead last in total. So, that's obviously not true.
Four minutes remaining ... any final thoughts?
Very, very few teams have tried. Because they haven't needed to. Tennessee is one good example of a team that did try, and Clowney has 2.5 tackles for loss in the first quarter. Against Tiny Richardson. So it's not advised, if it's avoidable.
Why look at recruiting rankings when you could look at things that actually matter on the field? But, I suppose that's an argument for another time.
To me, without releasing my pick ... Clemson needs to have its quarterback play much better than he has in past FSU/USC games, and have their players not let the Gamecocks' run of success in their heads. That's the biggest factor. Ryan, biggest factor for South Carolina to send us off?
The team that wins time of possession in this rivalry wins the game. It's been like that for more than a decade. In the past four games? South Carolina has dominated time of possession, holding the ball 61 percent of the time. It's no secret why Steve Spurrier specifically mentioned this as a major key Sunday. Clemson may not need to be plus-30 in time of possession, but it can't be dominated on the clock. That offense has to be on the field, not the sideline. If not, South Carolina wins pretty handily.
That'll wrap us up for the hour. Enjoy the week, everybody. Should be a grand ol' time.