No. 3 Clemson at No. 24 South Carolina
The biggest game in the Palmetto State takes place tonight in Columbia as third-ranked Clemson travels to Columbia to battle rival and No. 24 South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium.
This is the 115th meeting between the two rivals and the 109th consecutive year they have played against each other, the second longest streak between two schools in the country. The Tigers hold a 68-42-4 lead in the all-time series and have won the last three meetings by a combined score of 128-56.
However, the Gamecocks come into this year’s game with an 8-3 record and ranked in the College Football Playoff Committee Rankings. Clemson is just 1-4 all-time versus a ranked South Carolina team in Columbia.
Who has the edge in the Palmetto Bowl?
Clemson’s Kelly Bryant vs. South Carolina’s defense forcing turnovers: So far this season, Bryant has done a great job managing the Clemson offense. He isn’t always flashy, but he gets the job done and he takes care of the football. As a passer, the junior has completed 66.2 percent of his 299 passes for 2,154 yards. He has thrown 10 touchdown passes to just five interceptions. Bryant has also rushed for another 613 yards and has scored 10 touchdowns. The Calhoun Falls, S.C., native has turned the ball over just seven times all season. South Carolina leads the SEC and is tied for 20th in the country with 21 turnovers forced (11 fumbles and 10 interceptions). The Gamecocks are plus-9 in turnover margin, second in the SEC and tied for 14th in the country. The Gamecocks are not only winning the turnover battle, but converting those turnovers into points. Carolina has tallied 76 points off their 21 turnovers forced. However, when losing or tying the turnover battle, the Gamecocks are 3-3. Clemson has lost the turnover battle just three times this season and won all three games. As a whole, the Tigers have turned the ball over just 10 times all year, which is second in the ACC. Against the ACC’s three best teams in terms of forcing turnovers—Boston College, Louisville and Virginia Tech—the Tigers turned the ball over just two times, including none at Louisville and at Virginia Tech. They didn’t lose the turnover battle in any of the three games. Advantage: Clemson
South Carolina’s Jake Bentley vs. Clemson’s defense: Bentley made some comments in an interview with Fox Carolina last May that did not sit too well with the Clemson defense. The Tigers’ defense harassed Bentley all night as he had arguably his worst game of the season, completing 7-of-17 passes for 41 yards and an interception before leaving the game with an injury in the second half. The sophomore has bounced back this season to complete 63.1 percent of his passes for 2,429 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also has 6 rushing touchdowns. Bentley’s 220.8 passing yards average ranks third in the SEC. But if he played in the ACC, that average would rank just eighth in the conference and 16 yards behind seventh place. Bentley has also shown when pressured up the middle he can be careless with the football. He threw three interceptions against Florida two weeks ago when such happened. Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables loves to bring pressure up the middle and he is sure to bring a little more tonight considering Bentley’s propensity to turn the ball over in those situations. Clemson ranks second in the country with 39 sacks, and the Tigers did that despite playing three teams who ran a triple option rushing offense in Kent State, Georgia Tech and The Citadel. Bentley has been sacked 25 times this year. Advantage: Clemson
Clemson’s lines of scrimmage vs. South Carolina’s lines of scrimmage: Clemson’s defensive front is arguably the best defensive line in the country. Clemson is allowing just 116.5 yards per game on the ground and 3.1 yards per carry. However, against the eight teams that ran traditional college offenses, the Tigers allowed just 102 yards a game on the ground and 2.9 yards per carry. As mentioned above, Clemson has 39 sacks, but 25.5 of those sacks have come from the front four. Clemson also ranks third nationally in tackles for loss with 93. South Carolina is averaging just 131.5 yards per game on the ground and 4.1 yards per carry. The Gamecocks have just one player over 500 yards rushing (A.J. Turner) and have rushed for just 15 touchdowns as a team. Bentley has been sacked 25 times. On the flip side, the Gamecocks are giving up 143.3 yards per game on the ground and right at 4.0 yards per carry. They have just 23 sacks as a team and just 60 tackles for loss. However, they have only allowed 12 rushing touchdowns. Clemson has three players with at least 613 yards rushing and as a team the Tigers are averaging 5.2 yards per carry. The Tigers rank third in the ACC at 217.5 yards per game on the ground and have 34 rushing touchdowns. Four different players have at least five rushing touchdowns this year. Clemson has allowed 21 sacks, but just three in the last four games. Advantage: Clemson
Bottom Line: South Carolina will come out strong early and will play with a lot of emotion. The Gamecocks want to get revenge for last year’s embarrassing loss in Death Valley. The Gamecocks will not play as bad as they did in last year’s game and it is unlikely the Tigers will play as well as it did in the 49-point win. However, I think even if both teams play their best, Clemson is at least three touchdowns better than the Gamecocks. South Carolina will need turnovers to win this game, but so far this year has shown us that the Tigers don’t turn the ball over very often. Can it happen? Sure, but I don’t think it will, at least not at a high enough rate. Clemson is clearly better at the point of attack on both sides of the lines of scrimmage and overall has better talent at the skill positions. In the end, Clemson’s overall depth and talent should take over and allow the Tigers to pull away late.
Prediction: Clemson 38, South Carolina 17