Finding their way

The most important thing for Clemson is to recapture the same fire and level of play the team exhibited in the first eight games of the season.

Clemson has struggled in each of its last three games -- losses to Georgia Tech and N.C. State and a win over Wake Forest on the game's final play -- and the team's motivation has been in question.

"We've definitely lost a lot of momentum these last few weeks," junior center Dalton Freeman said. "Early on (in the season) we were just out there playing and having fun. Now we're playing not to lose instead of playing to win."

The best way to renew one's spirit is to play an arch-rival, which is precisely what Clemson will do when the Tigers battle South Carolina on Nov. 26. Both teams are 9-2, ranked in the Top 20 and eager to close out the regular season with a victory.

"This is an exciting week in our state," coach Dabo Swinney said. "It's a ton of fun to be part of this rivalry. I can't wait. It will be an electric atmosphere."

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is 1-2 against South Carolina. (Roy Philpott)
Swinney says the Tigers should be inspired because there's plenty left on the table -- they've already secured a spot in the ACC Championship game, where a win would mean a trip to the Orange Bowl, and the first 10-win season in 21 years could be in the offing.

"We don't have a single goal that we can't hit," Swinney said. "And that's what our focus has got to be -- on what's in front of us, not what has happened. We can learn from adversity."

WEDNESDAY NOTES: Clemson has more wins over South Carolina (65) than any other school, and those victories represent 10 percent of Clemson's all-time victory total of 656.

* Clemson and South Carolina will be playing for the 109th time and for the 103rd consecutive year. That is the third-longest streak of consecutive years played in a rivalry in the nation.

* Cousins Andre Ellington and Bruce Ellington will be on the field in the same uniform numbers (23) for their schools. Andre Ellington is Clemson's leading rusher with 871 yards and nine touchdowns while Bruce Ellington is the Gamecocks' second-leading all-purpose runner with 623 yards.

* Clemson sophomore receiver DeAndre Hopkins topped the 100-reception mark for his career in the Tigers' loss at N.C. State on Nov. 19. He became just the second Clemson player in history to reach 100 receptions by the end of his sophomore year, joining Derrick Hamilton.

SERIES HISTORY: Clemson leads the series with South Carolina 65-39-4 (last meeting, 2010, South Carolina won 29-7 at Clemson).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Clemson's offense has performed poorly for three consecutive games -- "we're lucky we didn't lose all three," coach Dabo Swinney said. The primary culprit has been turnovers as the Tigers have committed 11 in the last three games, but there are other issues, too -- namely, failure in short-yardage situations.

"We've got guys who are not operating within the system," offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. "When you can't line up and execute the short-yardage game that we need to execute, something's wrong. We're not in panic mode, but we've got to fix it and get our confidence level back to where it was four weeks ago."

Starting left tackle Phillip Price is expected to be back Saturday night against the Gamecocks. (Roy Philpott)
Quarterback Tajh Boyd has thrown six interceptions in the last three games and the Tigers' offensive line has struggled, particularly with left tackle Phillip Price out with an MCL sprain. Freshman receiver Sammy Watkins, who leads the ACC in receptions per game, yardage and touchdowns, also was missed last week against N.C. State after injuring a shoulder the previous week against Wake Forest, but his return should bolster the Tigers' offense.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: For the first 26 plays of last week's game at N.C. State, Clemson played its best defense of the season, limiting the Wolfpack to 2.9 yards per play. From there it went downhill in a hurry, but primarily due to offensive miscues that left the defense in terrible positions. A fumble, a drive that resulted in a loss of 15 yards and poor coverage on a punt gave N.C. State the ball at Clemson's 6-, 11- and 18-yard lines on consecutive possessions in the second quarter and the Wolfpack scored after each. Yet the defense did surrender some big plays, including a 43-yard touchdown catch-and-run on which several tackles were missed.

"We have got to learn from our mistakes," senior cornerback Coty Sensabaugh said. "We've got to get back to playing our game."

Defensive end Andre Branch and Sensabaugh had the best games for the Tigers, but defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said that he was disappointed in the fact that many veteran players were guilty of missed assignments and missed tackles.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We probably don't have the same music on our iPod." -- Clemson coach Dabo Swinney when asked to compare himself to South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. Top Stories