The turkey has been eaten, family has visited, and now it’s time for the state of South Carolina to pit sister against sister and friend against friend as the Tigers face off against the Gamecocks.
If you are a Palmetto State native and you aren’t excited about a top-15 matchup between Clemson and South Carolina under the Death Valley lights, then you might as well go live in a cave.
The rivalry between Clemson fans and South Carolina has grown exponentially over the last year, with quips and rants from each school’s head coach and it all comes down to Saturday night. Which team will back up their coach’s words in the on-going war?
This week we will do our game prediction a little differently... Our house-divided sister site Gamecock Girl's sports bloggess Lauren Hall will be stating her case for South Carolina and our sports bloggess Nikki Steele will be predicting for the Tigers.
LAUREN- SOUTH CAROLINA’S DEFENSE IS THE BEST THE TIGERS WILL FACE: Jadeveon Clowney said he would be 100% ready by Saturday's kickoff so the Carolina defense should be at full speed. Unlike the ACC defenses that Clemson has played all year, USC is big and fast on the defensive line. This should force Tajh Boyd to stay in the pocket and make quick decisions, which he has struggled with at times throughout his career. While Clemson does have deep threats, the Gamecocks have done a good job at preventing the deep balls this year. Clemson will score but it won't be nearly as often as they are used to against two of the best defensive ends in the country.
NIKKI- THE CLEMSON OFFENSE IS THE MOST EXPLOSIVE OFFENSE THE GAMECOCKS HAVE SEEN: The Gamecocks play in the mighty SEC ,which without a doubt is the best defensive conference in the land, but after watching a lot of college football, I have to question its offensive power. South Carolina’s defense has faced only two offenses that rank in the top-30 nationally in total offense- Tennessee at No. 23 and Georgia at No. 25. Both of those schools are a far cry from what the Gamecocks will see Saturday night in Clemson’s sixth-ranked offense, a group that has been hitting on all cylinders for the last few weeks. The Tigers are averaging 204 yards on the ground and 244 yards through the air, while putting up over 44 points per game. Quarterback Tajh Boyd accounted for eight touchdowns and over 500 yards of total offense a week ago and even the best defenses have had no luck in slowing him down. In the backfield, Boyd complements running back Andre Ellington who has rushed for 959 yards and eight touchdowns. And let’s face it; at wide receiver and tight end, Boyd has a bunch of Frisbee catching dogs in Nuk Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Jaron Brown and Brandon Ford. All Boyd has to do is get the ball to his playmakers and they will make the Gamecocks pay. The wide receivers will have some one-on-one coverage down the sideline and if they can get behind the cornerbacks, it will be as simple as throw-and-catch. If Clemson’s offensive line can give Boyd enough time to find his playmakers, it will be a long night in the Valley for the Gamecocks.
NIKKI- THE CLEMSON DEFENSE IS MUCH IMPROVED AGAINST THE RUN: Every Clemson fans’ worst nightmares begin with Connor Shaw running rampant last season in Williams Brice on his way to trouncing the Tigers for a third straight season. But, that was last season and with a new defensive coordinator in Brent Venables, the Tigers seemed to have fixed their problem with running quarterbacks. The Clemson defense started off a little shaky, but has steadily improved from week-to-week and after inserting middle linebacker Spencer Shuey in the lineup have seemingly shut down opponents’ running game, giving up 163 yards rushing per game. If the Tigers can limit the running game, then the defensive backs can focus on limiting the big play, which they have been prone to this season. The secondary is banged up and will need the front seven to get pressure on Shaw in order to give them a chance at slowing down South Carolina’s speedy receivers.
LAUREN- SHAW OR THOMPSON…THAT IS THE QUESTION? After losing Marcus Lattimore to a season-ending injury, the Gamecock offense has been extremely inconsistent. That, coupled with Connor Shaw's continued injured shoulder saga, make this weekends matchup much more difficult. Kenny Miles has done a great job as the new starting tailback in his senior season, backed up by Mike Davis who is proving to be a strong asset to the offense. But the quarterback situation is still a big question. It appears that Shaw may be healthy enough to play, but Dylan Thompson has spent the week taking all the snaps with the first team offense at practice. Again Spurrier has a decision to make, but if Shaw does start I believe he will be on a very short leash due to his turnover struggles of late. Hopefully, whoever is playing quarterback can find a way to get the ball to Justice Cunningham and Ace Sanders. These two have the ability to extend drives and make the big plays, which is what USC needs.
NIKKI- CATMAN…ENOUGH SAID: Clemson has one weapon that South Carolina doesn’t, and that’s Chandler Catanzaro, who has hit 15-of-16 field goals this season and is ready at a moments notice to hit the game-winning field goal. Against N.C. State a week ago, the Tigers gave up big plays in the return game. After doing the same against Florida State earlier in the season, the Tigers special teams fixed the problems only allowing less than 19 yards per return until the Wolfpack came to Death Valley. The players and coaches will have the issues fixed. And let’s not forget that if Ace Sander thinks he’s going to get free, he better watch out for kickoff specialist Spencer Benton who will be looking to make a big hit on senior night.
LAUREN- SPECIAL TEAMS MUST BE SPECIAL: This year's special teams have been a source of extreme highs and lows. There have been sparks of brilliance and many moments that we would all rather forget. The key to special teams is not turning over the ball, if Carolina can do this they should be able to provide the offense with good field position, which will be vital in this game.
LAUREN- WHY THE GAMECOCKS WILL WIN: The Gamecocks defense will overpower the Clemson offense that had torched the ACC this year. Carolina's defense will create good field position for the struggling offense. By forcing Clemson to rely on their run game, they will lose the ability to score quickly and often which has been their hallmark this year. As much as it breaks my heart…
CLEMSON 17- SOUTH CAROLINA 14
NIKKI- WHY THE TIGERS WILL WIN: The Gamecocks have owned the Tigers over the last three seasons, but with an offense that is seemingly unstoppable, Clemson is ready to turn the corner and send its seniors out with a bang. The South Carolina defense is very talented and very good there’s no doubt, but offensive coordinator Chad Morris doesn’t take it lightly when an opponent shows him up and that’s just what South Carolina did in 2011. The Clemson offense will use the Gamecocks’ aggressiveness against them to hit the big play or move the chains using Boyd’s mobility. The Clemson defense has been susceptible to the big play and that probably won’t stop Saturday night, but at home and under the lights Venables’ boys will make the plays they need to in order to seal the victory.
CLEMSON 45- SOUTH CAROLINA 28
Post written by Clemson Girl's Sports Bloggess, Nikki Steele and Gamecock Girl's Sports Bloggess, Lauren Hall