Preview and Prediction - South Carolina

Preview and Prediction - South Carolina

Football

Preview and Prediction - South Carolina

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The roles are reversed from a year ago as the hated South Carolina Gamecocks travel to Death Valley to face the Tigers on senior day.

The Series: 

As any Clemson fan can tell you the Tigers have dominated the series with South Carolina.  Saturday’s meeting between Clemson and South Carolina will be the 107th meeting for the Palmetto team.  Clemson leads the overall series 65-38-4.  The Tigers lead the series 16-8-1 at Clemson.  The Tigers fell to South Carolina last year 34-17 in Columbia.  In 2008 Clemson won 31-14.  Coach Dabo Swinney is 1-1 against South Carolina while Steve Spurrier is 2-3 verse the Tigers as the Gamecock’s head coach.

Tiger’s Offense vs Gamecock’s Defense: 

For the third time in four weeks the Tigers will face one of the nation’s top sack teams.  South Carolina will come into Death Valley ranked as the No. 4 team in the nation for sacks.  Florida State was No. 2 in the nation in sacks when they played the Tigers.  Clemson’s offensive line didn’t give up any sacks that game, except a play where Parker ran out of bounds a yard shy of the line of scrimmage.  Expect the Gamecocks to bring pressure with a number of blitzes.  How the Clemson offensive line handles the pressure will be one of the keys to the game.

The Gamecocks have struggled with pass defense in 2010.  South Carolina is currently 104 in the nation in pass defense giving up 250 yards per game.

Last week against Wake Forest Kyle Parker was 15-17 for 194 yards.  That completion percentage was the highest in the ACC in eight years.  The past three games Kyle is completing almost 70 percent of his passes.  As the young receivers have gained confindence and improved their play the Tigers passing numbers have increased significantly.

Rush defense has been the strength of the Gamecock’s defense.  South Carolina is only giving up 96 yards rushing per game which is good enough for 7th best in the nation.

Jamie Harper has been a different player since taking over the fulltime duties at running back.  Jamie is averaging 125 yards per game on the ground and almost 40 through the air the past three games.  Andre Ellington could be back for the Tigers, but will be a gametime decision.  If Andre is back he will not be 100 percent, but could provide some quality minutes. 

Look for South Carolina to try to stop the Tiger’s running game and force Kyle Parker and the passing game to win the game.  Kyle Parker will be playing in Death Valley for the last time.  Expect Kyle to leave on a high note as he and the receivers continue to show improvement in the passing game.  The key for the Tigers will be to get points when they are in the redzone.  Look for the Tigers to pass the ball down field, but run more once they are in the redzone.  

Edge:  Clemson

Tiger’s Defense vs Gamecock’s Offense: 

The Clemson defense continues to play as well as any since the early 90’s.  For the sixth week in a row the Tigers held their opponent to only one touchdown.  If they can join the 1981 National Championship team as with seven in a row it will be a good night for Tiger fans in Death Valley.

Stephen Garcia is playing as well as any quarterback that the Tigers have faced all year, with the exception of Cam Newton.  Garcia is completing 68 percent of his passes this year and has 16 touchdowns with only 9 interceptions.  The junior quarterback has also rushed for six touchdowns.

True freshman Marcus Lattimore has already gone over 1000 yards on the season.  Marcus has 1066 yards good enough for 17 touchdowns and a 5.1 average per carry.  He also has 288 receiving yards and two more touchdowns.

If that is not enough Alshon Jeffery could be the top receiver in the nation.  Alshon has 70 receptions for 1210 yards and seven touchdowns. 

DaQuan Bowers needs only one sack to break the single season record for the Tigers.  Bowers leads the nation in sacks and is a finalist for almost every defensive award.  Look for DaQuan to play at a high level in what will most likely be his final game in Death Valley.

The Tigers will have to bring their A game on defense to Death Valley Saturday night.  Clemson will need to bring pressure with their front four.  They won’t be able to bring a lot of blitzes because of the talented receivers for the Gamecocks and the scrambling ability of Garcia.  Earlier in the season Clemson had a number of mental breakdowns in the secondary that led to losses to Auburn and Miami.  The secondary will have to play their best game of the season for the Tigers to come away with the victory.

Expect a fired up Clemson defense to feed off the crowd and play well Saturday night.

Edge:  Even 

Special Teams:

The good news for Clemson is that Chandler Catanzaro has hit his last four field goals including making all three on the road at Wake Forest.  The bad news is Spencer Lanning is very strong for South Carolina.  Lanning is 12-16 on the year.
 
South Carolina is only No. 86 in the nation in kickoff returns with an average of 20.6 yards per return.  The Gamecocks are 115th in the nation in punt returns with an average of only 3 yards per return.
 
Clemson ranks 10th in the nation in net punting with a 43.29 average per punt.  Dawson Zimmerman is averaging 43.74 yards per punt.  The coverage teams for the Tigers have been excellent.
 
Marcus Gilchrist is averaging 26 yards per kickoff return good enough for 32nd in the nation.  Gilchrist is also averaging 10.89 yards per punt return good enough for 24th best in the nation. 
 
This one is a tough call.  If it comes down to a late field goal the advantage goes to South Carolina, but overall the Tigers may have the better special teams.
 
Edge:  Even

Overall Analysis:

Each week the Clemson players have said “this is the biggest game of the year”.  Well this week they were right.  This is without a doubt the biggest game of the year.

The home crowd will be a huge advantage for the Tigers.  Expect the 7:00 kickoff to be the loudest crowd of the year by far.  Senior day adds another advantage for the Tigers.  Kyle Parker, DaQuaon Bowers and the seniors will leave it all on the field as they play their final game in Death Valley. 

Monday night on The Tiger Blitz my prediction was for Clemson to win 31-17.  That prediction has been modified a little as the week has progressed.

Clemson’s defense will be the best that South Carolina has faced all year.  The Tiger’s defense plays much better in the Valley, especially in a night game.  Expect the Tiger defense to keep the Garcia and Lattimore under control for most of the night.  Parker, Harper and the Clemson offense will do enough to get Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney his second victory over Steve Spurrier and South Carolina.

Clemson 27  South Carolina 17

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