Fourth-ranked Clemson will conclude its regular season against in-state rival South Carolina on Saturday night. Here are five numbers to note in preparation for tonight’s matchup in Death Valley. The game is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN.
10: Rushing or receiving touchdowns scored against South Carolina by current Clemson players. As recently as a couple of years ago, the experienced players on Clemson’s roster had experienced mostly negative things against the Gamecocks as part of that much-discussed five-game losing streak. However, with the Tigers enjoying back-to-back victories in the series, things have changed a bit. Half of those touchdowns belong to Deshaun Watson, who has rushed for five touchdowns in two career outings against the Gamecocks. Artavis Scott had two scoring catches in 2014 in what has been his best career game on paper. Wayne Gallman has rushed for one touchdown against South Carolina in each of the past two seasons, both 100-yard performances. CJ Fuller also found the end zone a year ago while playing only ten snaps.
19: Takeaways by South Carolina in Clemson games since 2009. That was the year the five-game losing streak began, and in spite of the Tigers’ recent success, some of the same themes haven’t necessarily changed. Clemson turned the ball over 15 times in its five consecutive losses, an average of three times per game. That number has gone down some lately, but the Tigers have still committed four turnovers over the past two seasons against the Gamecocks. To make matters worse, in the past seven meetings between the schools, Clemson has only forced five total turnovers. This means the Gamecocks have a +14 turnover margin over a seven-year stretch. Clemson has been much sloppier against its rival (2.7 turnovers/game) than it has against the rest of its schedule (1.6 turnovers/game) during that stretch. If there’s one thing that has haunted the Tigers this season, it’s turnovers, so this bears watching.
28: Points per game for South Carolina in its last five games. Spread over the entire season, this average would rank 72nd in the country—just below the halfway mark. That’s double the average over the Gamecocks’ first six games, when they ranked dead last in the nation at 14 points per game. Will Muschamp and Kurt Roper made the switch to freshman quarterback Jake Bentley, and the results have been better, although not quite as good as it might seem by comparison to the putrid product that was on the field during the first half of the season. The caliber of FBS defenses South Carolina has faced is virtually identical before and after Bentley began playing, but Bentley had the benefit of facing FCS foe Western Carolina and has only played in one road environment. In that game, Florida—the only squad on the Gamecocks’ schedule ranked higher than Clemson in scoring defense—nearly shut out South Carolina’s attack.
33: Sacks allowed by South Carolina this season. If this seems like a constant theme this season, it’s because Clemson has faced some particularly shoddy offensive lines. This number ranks 112th in the nation and puts South Carolina in the same class of protection as Wake Forest, Florida State, Syracuse, and Louisville. Clemson sacked the quarterbacks of those four teams a combined 17 times—more than four sacks per game on average. For a Gamecock team that gives up an average of three sacks per game and is facing the nation’s fourth-best squad at sacking the quarterback, this could be a tough scenario.
125: Season high in receiving yardage for Artavis Scott in 2016. That number is sixty yards lower than his career high of 185, which he set during his freshman campaign against South Carolina. That afternoon in 2014 was one of two multi-touchdown games Scott has enjoyed in his career. It was speculated that Scott would be used as a more versatile weapon in 2016, but if anything, his role has become more entrenched as the primary horizontal receiving weapon in Clemson’s offense. Scott ranks second on Clemson’s team in catches (55) and yards (467), but his 8.5 yards per catch average slots him sixth out of the eight receivers who have caught at least eight passes this season. Last year, Scott was quieter against the Gamecocks, earning only three catches for 29 yards. In what is presumably his final chance to compete against the Gamecocks, it would seem to behoove Clemson to find Scott early and often.