By Trey McCurry.
Coming off a win at Wake Forest that made it bowl eligible, Clemson now turns its focus to South Carolina. With the Gamecocks winning the Eastern Division of the SEC this year, this game is exact opposite of last year’s game in Columbia when Clemson came in as a division champion and South Carolina was just over .500.
“I am excited about this week like a lot of people out there,” said Head Coach Dabo Swinney. “For me, this is what college football is all about. This is one of the reasons I got into coaching. I love to compete and to be able to complete in games like this is what you dream about.”
“South Carolina is a very good team. They really have contributions from all three phases. They are the best offense we have played. They are efficient, over 60% on third downs, and we will have our hands full. They use a lot of formations and have been more balanced this year. They have some special players. Garcia is top-10 in the nation in passing. Lattimore is a very good back. He has had a great year and has been the difference. Jeffery has had another great year for them. They also have some really good complimentary players. Their offensive line is playing well. Defensively, they are not much different. They are very talented and very good. Their defensive line is disruptive, and they may have the two best tackles we have faced together. Their ends are active, long, and tip a lot of ball. They don’t change personnel a lot.”
“For us, it is simple. We have to win the line of scrimmage and take care of the ball. Our front four have to be dominant like they have been of late, slow Lattimore down, and make them one-dimensional. Momentum is critical and turnovers are a big part of that. We need to score TDs when we get the chance. Offensively, our players have to play a good game. If they do that, we can execute and have a chance to move the ball. We have to get a spark somewhere in the game.”
Injury wise, Clemson seems to be getting a little more healthy for Saturday’s game. “Hopefully Chavis will be able to do a little more today. I was encouraged with Ellington last night and he will try to do a little more today. He looks like a game time decision.”
One of the things Swinney talked about was the uniqueness of rivalry games, such as Clemson-Carolina and Alabama-Auburn. “It is all about everybody’s backyard. Most of the players know each other and they live with each other all year through the media. They have a lot of recruiting battles. It is THE game that everybody in the state cares about. Win or lose, when you go to the store you hear about it. When you go to church, you hear about it. It is a yearlong thing. They will line up and battle, but they respect each other. Everybody understands the magnitude of the game.”
Dabo also talked about his running backs for Saturday. “It is good to have some depth. Jamie is a different kind of player. You couldn’t ask any more from him the past few weeks. He was the best guy out there at Florida State and Wake Forest. He has thrived from that role. He is a typical NFL back and will play a long time on Sundays if his body holds up. We haven’t been able to rest Jamie a lot, so it would be nice to get Andre back to give him some rest. We will just have to see how it goes this week.”
With a 7:06 kickoff, the Valley should be rocking as the Tigers look to defeat South Carolina and keep the Gamecocks from winning two straight against Clemson for the first time since 1969-70. Clemson has won 10 in a row in the series when the Gamecocks are trying to beat Clemson in consecutive years.