COLUMBIA —No one in college football has played as well as No. 3 Clemson in the last six games. The Tigers have outscored their last six opponents 315-58, winning every game by at least 31 points.
While the Tigers have been hitting their stride, their rivals in Columbia have been struggling. Since upsetting No. 4 Georgia in Athens, South Carolina has lost four of its last five games and comes into the Palmetto State’s big game with 4-7 record, while key players such as quarterback Ryan Hilinski, running back Tavien Feaster and wide receiver Bryan Edwards are banged up.
Edwards is doubtful to play in today’s noon kick at Williams-Brice Stadium, while Feaster, who missed the last two games with a groin injury, is questionable.
Who has the edge?
Clemson’s offensive line vs. South Carolina DT Javon Kinlaw: South Carolina’s defensive front might be the most formidable front the Clemson offensive line has seen since the North Carolina game. The Gamecocks are quick and athletic on the outside and on the inside defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw is very disruptive. The 6-6, 310-pound senior lived in the Georgia backfield in the Oct. 12 meeting, playing a big role why the Gamecocks forced four Bulldog turnovers. Clemson’s offensive line has been the strength of the unit all season, allowing just 10 sacks all season, which is tied for fourth nationally. The Tigers also rank seventh nationally at running the football, averaging 260.6 yards per game and a nation’s best 6.5 yards per carry. Advantage: Clemson
Trevor Lawrence vs. South Carolina’s secondary: After starting the Louisville game rough, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence has not thrown an interception in the last 19 quarters and is completing 77.4 percent of his passes. In those 19 quarters, he has completed 86-of-111 passes for 1,265 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Gamecocks are allowing 227.9 yards per game through the air while opponents are completing 58.4 percent of their passes. However, South Carolina has picked off 12 passes, led by cornerback Israel Mukuamu. But the Gamecocks have also allowed 20 touchdown passes. Advantage: Clemson
Clemson’s wide receivers vs. South Carolina’s cornerbacks: Though the Gamecocks rank 65th nationally at stopping the pass, it might have two of the best cornerbacks Clemson has seen this season. As mentioned above, Mukuamu has four interceptions and has big play potential, while across from him is Jaycee Horn, who has been shutting down his side of the field for much of the season. Both corners are tall and physical. Horn stands 6-1 and weighs 200 pounds, while Mukuamu is 6-4, 205 pounds. Against Georgia, they jammed the Bulldogs’ receivers at the line and made it very difficult for them to get into their routes, throwing off the timing of the play. Clemson has arguably the best set of receivers in the country, with five players—Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross, Joseph Ngata, Diondre Overton and Frank Ladson—standing 6-4 and weighing 210-215 pounds. In other words, this will be one of the more intriguing matchups of the game. Advantage: Clemson
Bottom line: South Carolina has some talent, especially on defense where it can cause some trouble. Defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw caused issues all day for Georgia’s offensive line and he is capable of doing the same against Clemson. Cornerback Jaycee Horn has come into his own while Israel Mukuamu has four interceptions, including three against Georgia. But with injuries at key positions on offense, it is a wonder if the Gamecocks can hang with a Clemson team that has outscored its opposition 315-58 the last six weeks. Also, the Clemson defense wants to make amends for last year’s performance in Death Valley. None of that bodes well for the Gamecocks.
Prediction: Clemson 55, South Carolina 10
Put some Clemson on your Christmas Tree this year. Clemson Christmas Decorations from Clemson Variety & Frame