South Carolina’s defensive front is more oppressive than the communist party. Clemson OC, Chad Morris, said “It’s definitely the fastest defense we’ve seen this year.” Clemson’s offense has committed 11 turnovers in their last three games, two of them losses. Why would anyone expect them to perform well against this solid Gamecock defense?
Well, let’s see. Sammy Watkins and Phillip Price will be back, adding a big play maker and a key offensive lineman to the lineup. Both were missing in last week’s debacle against NC State in Raleigh. USC’s defense is starting to get banged up too. Clowney incurred a mild concussion last week. Demario Jeffrey has a high ankle sprain and won’t play. So they’re not at 100%.
Clemson’s most impressive win this year came on the road, at night, against Virginia Tech. Barring that loss to Clemson, VT would be just two wins (@UVA, ACCCG) away from a National Championship berth. So we know that Clemson certainly has the potential to win a tough road night game, but they were playing much better football back then as well.
USC’s best win came in Athens against UGA, in a game where nobody could get a defensive stop and eventually Georgia beat themselves with ridiculous turnovers, losing 42-45. That was only the second game of the season (my first as a UGA graduate student), and Marcus Lattimore was the key player for USC, absolutely gorging UGA’s defense throughout the entire game. This may indicate that the USC offense has (had) a ton of potential. Since then, they’ve lost their star RB and changed QBs. UGAs 42 points were the most that the Gamecocks had given up all season, until Arkansas tallied 44 points against them. Neither game was in Columbia, SC.
Over the years Clemson has dominated the rivalry, but risks dropping three straight to their in-state rival for the first time since 1968-70. Both teams enter the game ranked for just the fourth time in the 108 game series history. That stat is really an amazing testament to how poor South Carolina’s football history is, and in my opinion how Clemson fans have done their program a disservice by calling a season a success if they could just beat their lowly in-state rival. Things are a little different now. Both teams have nine wins and USC doesn’t look quite as pitiful. Beating USC this year will mean 10 regular season wins, a major accomplishment that Clemson hasn’t reached since 1990. It would also mean loads of momentum for next week’s ACC Championship game in Charlotte. Win the next two games and this is the best Clemson season of my lifetime.
Chad Morris explains the recent struggles,
“I think by us not taking care of the football, we’ve lost confidence along the way. We’re not playing with the confidence level we had four weeks ago. We’re not doing that right now. A lot of that has to do with the fact that for the first eight games of the year we turned the ball over six times. In the last three games we turned it over 11 times.”
With so much to play for, there’s little risk the Tigers come out flat in this giant rivalry game, even with the ACC Championship looming. If Clemson comes out strong and takes an early lead I absolutely think they will take out two years of frustration on USC.
If they make early turnovers and fall behind, they could start pressing, and things could fall apart. Boyd has been forcing throws and the running backs have been fumbling. The Tigers will need a big game from Ellington, not just to reestablish the run which has been completely missing, but to avoid the fumblitis that has stricken some of our other running backs. The Tiger defense will have to stop the zone read and not allow Connor Shaw to run wild, as I’m sure he’ll try to do.
With a full week of prep for the zone read, a healthy Watkins, a healthy Philip Price, some injuries to the USC defense, and everything to prove I’m picking Clemson to improve to 66-39-4 all time against USC, and 10-2 on the season with a 31-28 victory.
Who are you picking?
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