Who has the edge? South Carolina at No. 2 Clemson
The 2018 regular season comes to an end today for No. 2 Clemson when it hosts rival South Carolina at Memorial Stadium in Clemson.
The Tigers are seeking their 70th win, and their fifth straight, in the 116-year old rivalry. Clemson has not beat South Carolina five straight years since it won seven in a row from 1934-’40, which subsequently is the longest win streak in the series by either team.
The Tigers (11-0) have won the last four meetings by an average margin of 24 points.
The Gamecocks (6-4) come into Death Valley as a 26.5 underdog, the largest in the history of the rivalry.
Who has the edge?
Clemson’s rush offense vs. USC’s rush defense: South Carolina has not stopped the run all year. The Gamecocks gave up 367 rushing yards against Florida two weeks ago and rank 92nd nationally against the run at 190.1 yards per game. Opponents are averaging 4.46 yards per rush which ranks 79th nationally. They have allowed 21 rushing touchdowns this year, which is 89th in the country. To make matters worse, senior Bryson Allen-Williams has already been ruled out and defensive end D.J. Wonnum is listed as questionable. Sophomore Aaron Sterling is banged up as well on the defensive line. None of that bodes well going up against a Clemson rushing attack that ranks 13th nationally (247.7) in yards per game and second nationally (6.65) in yards per carry. The Tigers also have 35 rushing touchdowns, which ranks fifth in the country. Running back Travis Etienne leads the ACC with 1,157 yards. He also leads the conference in yards per carry (8.5) and rushing touchdowns (17). His 17 rushing touchdowns are tied for second nationally. Advantage: Clemson
Clemson’s pass offense vs. USC’s pass defense: The Gamecocks are allowing a modest 219.8 yards per game, not bad considering all the injuries they have suffered in the secondary. Freshman R.J. Roderick will start at safety for South Carolina’s depleted secondary. Opponents are completing 61.8 percent of their passes. USC has just six interceptions. With 19 sacks, the defense has not gotten much pressure on the quarterback this year. However, the Gamecocks have allowed just 8 passing touchdowns this season. Clemson is averaging 272.7 yards per game through the air. Freshman Trevor Lawrence, who has started the last seven games for the Tigers, has thrown for 2,095 yards, while completing 65 percent of his passes. He has thrown 21 touchdowns to just four interceptions. He leads the ACC in touchdown passes and in quarterback rating (154.2). Then there are wide receivers Tee Higgins, Amari Rodgers and Justyn Ross the Gamecocks will have to deal with on the back end as well. Advantage: Clemson
USC’s rush offense vs. Clemson’s run defense: Again, the Gamecocks numbers are modest at best. They’re averaging 167.6 yards per game on the ground and 4.6 per rush. However, Carolina has just 15 rushing touchdowns as a team and not one running back has 500 yards coming into tonight’s game. Clemson has one of the best run defenses in the country. The Tigers rank third nationally in rushing yards allowed per game (84.3) and second in rushing yards per carry (2.2). Clemson has allowed just 7 rushing touchdowns, which ranks fifth nationally and has 108 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, good enough for second in the country. Advantage: Clemson
USC pass offense vs. Clemson’s rush offense: If there is an area where the Gamecocks might have some success this it. Of course, this all based on if the South Carolina’s offensive line can block Clemson powerful, athletic and quick defensive front. The Tigers rank second in the nation right now with 40 sacks, while the secondary as held its own. Clemson’s pass defense ranks 11th in the country (170.1 yards/game) and is allowing just 6.0 yards per attempt. The Tigers have allowed just six touchdown passes this year, which is tied for second. South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley, if given time, can give the Tigers trouble. He has competed 65.1 percent of his passes for 2,244 yards. He has thrown 19 touchdowns and has nine interceptions. He has been sacked just 15 times this year. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel has scored six touchdowns off 48 receptions for 639 yards, including a long of 89 yards. Bryan Edwards leads the Gamecocks with 659 yards on 42 receptions. He also has scored six touchdowns this year, including a 75-yard touchdown. Advantage: Clemson
Bottom Line: South Carolina has some playmakers on offense that can give the Tigers trouble. However, they don’t have enough. The defense has been decimated with injuries and right now they are having trouble stopping average offenses like Florida’s. Clemson is too balanced and too skilled for Carolina to keep up. In the end, the Tigers talent will take over and they should cruise to another easy win. The Tigers have come so close to recording a shutout this year, and over the last six games they’re allowing just 8.2 points per game. Does the defense finally get a shutout this week?
Prediction: Clemson 45, South Carolina 0