By Will Vandervort.
Game 12 matchup: Clemson at South Carolina
By Will Vandervort
The fourth-ranked Clemson Tigers will take on No. 9 South Carolina at 7:06 p.m. Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. So what are the key matchups and what do both teams have to do in order to put themselves in position to win the game?
When the Gamecocks have the ball: The Gamecocks like to run the football with sophomore running back Mike Davis. He has been one of the best backs in the country as he is averaging 111.2 yards per game coming in. Davis is averaging 6.2 yards per carry. Quarterback Connor Shaw is the second best running back on the team in terms of yards at 417. If Clemson’s defensive front can win the battle at the line of scrimmage and limit Davis’ ability to run, then the Tigers will be in a better situation to fend off USC’s screen game, which they use very effectively, and prevent the big plays in the passing game. Last year, the Gamecocks were 11 of 21 on third downs, most of which came in the second half as USC had the ball for more than 21 minutes.
When the Tigers have the ball: The Gamecocks like to use Jadeveon Clowney at both end positions and they will also walk him around from time-to-time. They also will put him down at defensive tackle as well. Clemson’s offensive line will have a challenge trying to block him. Clowney has recorded six sacks on the Tigers the past two years. Clowney’s influence on the defensive line will impact the game and what the Tigers do because his presence allows others the opportunities to make plays. Clemson will try to counter with quick passes to wide receiver Sammy Watkins and Adam Humphries. This is part of Clemson’s running game and it actually allows more room for the Tigers to run Roderick McDowell in between the tackles. Clemson needs to use this to try and stay out of third and long situations and in part neutralize Clowney.
Keep an eye on:
South Carolina wide receiver Bruce Ellington: He has the nickname of being called “The Tiger Killer” for his ability to make big plays in the Clemson game in both football and basketball. In each of the last two years he has caught touchdown passes. This year, he leads the Gamecocks with 39 receptions for 584 yards and six touchdowns.
Intangibles: South Carolina has a 17-game home winning streak, the longest active streak in the country… Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd can tie the school mark of 32 wins as a starting quarterback, which is currently held by quarterback Rodney Williams, who grew up in Columbia.
To win, the Gamecocks must… Keep its offense on the field. Last year, the Gamecocks controlled the clock and in doing so kept Clemson’s powerful offense on the sideline. USC converted 11 of 21 third down attempts and held the ball for more than 21 minutes in the second half.
To win, the Tigers must… Get off to a great start. Being on the road and having to handle the tough crowd at Williams-Brice Stadium, the Tigers need something good to happen early so they can feel good about themselves. Remember, the Gamecocks are in the Tigers’ heads right now. Anything good that can happen early in the game will go a long way in letting themselves know they can win.