It’s Rivalry Week and lo and behold, The Tigers and Gamecocks have the main event slot as it should be. This is always a big day for conference perception, but we know that all we have to do is win and everything will take care of itself. Still, the rest of the college football slate is excellent as it always is on rivalry week. Here are some of the things I’ll be looking for today outside of our game.
- Can Georgia Tech move the ball on the ground, shorten the game, and keep Jake Fromm and company off the field.
- Can FSU keep their bowl streak alive?
- Can Michigan’s defense prove they are elite by shutting down Haskins and Ohio State?
- Will Auburn’s defense be able to get to Tua and make him feel pressure?
- Can Kellen Mond and A&M generate offense against LSU?
- Will Notre Dame buckle under the pressure against USC?
12:00, SECN, Georgia Tech at #5 Georgia
12:00, ABC, #11 Florida at Florida State
12:00, FOX, #4 Michigan at #10 Ohio State
3:30, CBS, Auburn at #1 Alabama
3:30, ESPN, #24 Pitt at Miami
7:00, ESPN, South Carolina at #2 Clemson
7:30, SECN, #7 LSU at #22 Texas A&M
8:00, ABC, #3 Notre Dame at USC
10:15, ESPN, #21 Utah State at #23 Boise St.
Clemson vs. South Carolina
There’s no secret that Clemson is the far better football team in this matchup. South Carolina can compete with Clemson in the same way most non-elite teams can also compete with Clemson. They need an unfocused and unmotivated Clemson team that comes out and goes through the motions. With this being a rivalry game, of course, it is less likely to happen.
It has happened in the recent past though. The 2015 game ended up being a 37-32 Tiger victory in Williams-Brice. SC had just lost to The Citadel the week prior and Clemson was coming into the game undefeated and banged up. Wayne Gallman and Ben Boulware, in particular, were not healthy and were largely ineffective. Still, Clemson took a 21-3 lead in the 3rd quarter before they kind of shut it down defensively. SC scored 29 points in a quarter and a half mostly due to Deebo Samuel and Pharoah Cooper toasting our mentally-checked-out DBs over and over.
That quarter and a half gave SC hope for the 2016 game. SC was improved and motivated based on the close game the year before. They wore their confidence on their sleeve and poked the bear prior to the game. Those Gamecocks got the full attention of the eventual National Champions. Clemson took a 21-0 lead in the 1Q and was up 35-0 at halftime. SC managed just 7 points on a trick play and Clemson won 56-7. Immediately after the game, SC cried foul and promised it would be much different in 2017 when The Tigers had to go to Williams-Brice. They were wrong. Clemson led 20-0 at halftime in that game and stretched that lead out to 34-0 by the end of the 3Q.
And that brings us to tonight’s game. Clemson has proven they are the dominant force in this rivalry. SC’s 5 straight wins over Clemson seem like a distant memory that has been completely overshadowed by Clemson’s national-level success. The golden age of SC football under Spurrier has since been dwarfed by the Dabo Era in Clemson. Because of this, South Carolina fans and players have been extremely quiet this week. They’ve chosen to direct their outrage at their head coach more so than their rival. Both fanbases seem to publicly agree that this game is going to be a blowout. For Clemson Tiger players, this is a ploy. The last thing we need is the same lack of focus that produced the first quarter against Duke last week.
I have 4 reasons why I think we will avoid the trappings of over-confidence today.
- First, we have a lot of offensive players that will have starring roles in the rivalry for the first time like Trevor Lawrence, Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross, Amari Rodgers, Derion Kendrick, Gage Cervenka, and John Simpson.
- Second, the Defensive Line. We’ve seen them abuse Jake Bentley (5 Sacks and 2 INTs last year) before and this will be their last go-around against SC as well as their last game in Death Valley. This is their swan song and I’m more worried about them being too jacked up initially. These are our team leaders, so it is doubtful that they are overlooking their last home game against their archrival.
- Third, depth. Not only should we be able to wear them down, but unlike 2015, anybody not maximizing their effort can be replaced.
- Fourth, scheme. All of the teams that have been able to beat Clemson have found a schematic advantage that has taken the Tiger defense by surprise. SC has not had a definitive identity offensively nor have they shown much innovation from their OC. Their typical plan against Clemson for the past few years has been to go through the film and grab all the plays that have worked against Clemson throughout the year and run those. The problem with that strategy is that we’ve usually adjusted and fixed the problem.
If I was SC, I would recognize that we need Clemson to help us beat Clemson. I would recognize the slow starts that Clemson has had. I would slow the game down to a crawl and run the ball in the hopes of extending that slow start into the 2nd half. I would run the ball twice as much as I throw it and hope that the Clemson offense or special teams make a mistake. Like BC’s head coach said, “we want to drag Clemson into the 4th quarter.” Inferior teams are not going to do that with up-tempo offense. They don’t have the depth to compete in a long game and the more possessions they give us, the more the cream will rise to the top. I will be hoping for an up-tempo beat down. I think no matter what SC tries, they are going to be in trouble if they get the Genius Kid, which I think we’ll see for at least 2 quarters of the game.
This is it. We wait 364 days for this and the next 364 depend on the outcome. Every Trevor Lawrence hair joke, every Moo U remark, every “wait till next year,” every pinky finger wiggled in your direction not too long ago, every “SEC” chant, and every single delusional comment you hear every single season will either be slapped down or magnified by 100 times around 10:30 this evening. Let’s bury these chumps and send them back to the armpit they came from defeated and demoralized. Go Tigers!
I want to post the AlgoStats this week because something you might be interested in has happened in these rankings.