South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp feels he has found a chink in Clemson’s armor and the Gamecocks hope to expose it Saturday when they travel to Death Valley to take on the second-ranked Tigers.
Muschamp identified Clemson’s weakness on his call-in show earlier his week, citing tempo has given the Tigers’ defense the biggest trouble.
“That is one of the things that if you really look that they’ve struggled with, and they haven’t much on defense, but adjusting to tempo has been an issue,” South Carolina’s head coach said, according to The Big Spur.com.
Muschamp said the Gamecocks (6-4) are going to pick their spots to try and take advantage of the tempo it likes to run during the course of a game.
South Carolina will not be the first team that has tried to run tempo on Clemson’s defense. Duke did it last week and racked up 127 yards in the first quarter as it took a 6-0 lead on two field goals. However, defensive coordinator Brent Venables did adjust to what head coach David Cutcliffe was calling and the Tigers held the Blue Devils to 135 total yards the rest of the game, while keeping them out of the end zone and off the scoreboard.
Clemson (11-0) has seen teams try to attack them with tempo more than once this year. Syracuse and Wake Forest also play with tempo. The Orange had moderate success, especially in the first half when it racked up 221 total yards, but the Tigers adjusted and held Syracuse to 90 total yards in the second half.
Since that game, Clemson’s defense has been almost impenetrable. The Tigers have allowed just 246.7 yards and 8.2 points per game in the last six. Most of those yards and points allowed have come in garbage time against Clemson’s third and fourth string defenses.
“This will be a game that they obviously do a really good job of loading the box and they’re really talented up front,” Muschamp said. “We need to get the ball on the perimeter and get the ball in the hands of Deebo Samuel, Bryan Edwards and Shi Smith and play with a good tempo.”
Teams have been trying to tempo the Tigers and get the ball out of its quarterback’s hands fast for much of the year. Clemson has held up pretty well on this approach for the most part.
The key for South Carolina and anyone who plays against Clemson is to avoid third-and-long plays. That’s when the defensive front of defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, defensive end Clelin Ferrell and defensive end Austin Bryant has teed off on its opponents.
Despite playing three triple-option football teams this year, the Tigers rank second in the country in sacks with 40 and second in the country in tackles for loss with 108.
Opponents are converting just 27.1 percent of the time on third down, which ranks third nationally.
Clemson leads the nation in scoring defense (12.1 points/game), yards per play allowed (3.7) and rushing yards allowed per attempt (2.2). The Tigers rank second in total defense (254.4 yards/game), touchdown passes given up (6) and total touchdowns allowed (15).
They also rank third in rushing defense (84.3 yards/game), 10th in passing efficiency defense (104.8) and 11th passing yards allowed (170.1).
“They have a really good football team and our guys need to play well,” Muschamp said.
The Gamecocks, by the way, rank 46th nationally in total offense (429.), 37th in scoring (32.8), 67th in rushing (167.8) and 34th in passing (262.0).