Clemson - Carolina Preview & Prediction

COLUMBIA, S.C. - 22nd-ranked Clemson heads to Williams-Brice Stadium to take on 6-5 South Carolina Saturday night on ESPN-2.

GAME: No. 22 Clemson (8-3, 5-3) at South Carolina (6-5, 3-5 SEC)

LOCATION: Columbia, S.C., Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250)

TV: ESPN-2 (Gary Thorne, Bob Davie, Stacey Dales)

TIME: 7:00 P.M. EST

SPREAD: Tigers by 3

SERIES: The series dates to 1896 and the first year of football at Clemson, the fourth season for South Carolina. Clemson holds the advantage 63-37-4 since that first meeting in Columbia. Clemson has more wins over South Carolina than any other school and those victories represent nearly 10 percent of Clemson's all-time victory total (624).

COACHES: Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden is 68-41 (86-45 overall) in his ninth season with the Tigers and 6-2 against South Carolina. South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier is 21-15 (163-55-2 overall) in his third year with the Gamecocks and 2-3 against Clemson, including a 1-1 record during his time in Columbia.

SOUTH CAROLINA KEY PLAYER: QB Blake Mitchell. Mitchell is as hot and as cold as they come. The fifth-year senior can make 10 throws in a row before he'll throw an interception in double-coverage. The Gamecocks need Mitchell playing at a high level for four quarters to get the win.

CLEMSON KEY PLAYER: RB James Davis. The Tigers need the ground game going to move the ball against the nation's No. 4 ranked pass defense. Davis offers the physical style of running that could eventually wear down South Carolina's defense.

INJURIES: Clemson- RB Ray Ray McElrathbey (ACL) out, FB Chad Diehl (leg) out, Haydrian Lewis (ACL) out, WR Jacoby Ford (ankle) out, OL Chris McDuffie (elbow) questionable. South Carolina- DL Nathan Pepper out, LB Jasper Brinkley out, CB Captain Munnerlyn out.

FORECAST: The high temperature Saturday afternoon in Columbia is expected to be 57 degrees under mostly sunny skies. By kickoff expect mid-40s with a low of 42.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I guess time will tell because we're different, but we're the same. We're different in some of our personnel, but we're the same in this is who we are. We've got to obviously have an answer to what they're trying to do. Obviously we're going to try, but time's going to tell whether or not we can stop them. Like always, they tend to get going pretty good on offense." - Clemson defensive coordinator Vic Koenning on whether or not his defense is better equipped to handle South Carolina's offense.

QUOTE TO NOTE II: "This game has been pretty intense, regardless of who wins," Bowden said. "The biggest motivating factor for my team is the fact that this game is a rivalry. The biggest thing I like about this team is that every week we show up to play. That's why I think we will Saturday even though we're coming off an emotionally-draining game. I think our players left feeling they had left everything on the field, and I think they pretty much have every game. As far as playing with intensity, we have done that for 11 games." - Tommy Bowden on the possibility of an emotional letdown after losing to Boston College.

CRAZY STAT OF THE WEEK: Over their last 10 quarters South Carolina has put 91 points on the board, an average of 9.1 points per quarter, or just over 36 points per game.

COVERAGE
* 3 Keys to Victory
* BLOG: Recent Rivalry Memories
* Gamecocks Struggling Down the Stretch
* Merling Stepping Out
* Tommy Bowden's Press Conference
* What We are Hearing...
* NOTEBOOK: Clearing Up a Few Plays
* Tigers Trying to Regroup
* Depth Chart
* Game Notes
* Tuesdays with Vic
* Rivalry Takes Backseat to ACC/SEC
* 2007 Clemson Beat Pick 'Em

KEYS FOR THE CLEMSON OFFENSE - While the Tigers enter Saturday's game averaging a respectable 153 yards/game on the ground, good enough for second in the ACC, it's not nearly the production that was expected entering the season with running backs James Davis and C.J. Spiller. The good news is the Gamecock defense has been susceptible to the run, giving up 208 yards/game. Davis and Spiller were vocal this past week about not letting the Boston College loss beat the Tigers twice. They'll have to show that passion to end the season on a good note by putting up big numbers Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium. The onus here also falls on Clemson's offensive line, which hasn't been consistent in opening running lanes this season. Cullen Harper needs to continue to be Cullen Harper ... complete a high percentage of his passes and let Aaron Kelly and Tyler Grisham keep the chains moving. The Gamecocks will use a good bit of man-free coverage, meaning Harper will have to take chances and hit the big downfield throw when it is available. South Carolina's pass defense, which currently fourth in the country, will be tested with CB Captain Munnerlyn out of the lineup. The Gamecocks have also failed in getting pressure on the quarterback lately- recording just one sack in their last three games.

KEYS FOR THE CLEMSON DEFENSE - Last year the Tigers had no answer for South Carolina's offense as the Gamecocks rolled up 208 yards on the ground and 284 through the air. This year, the Gamecocks rank dead last in the SEC in rushing at 116.7 yards per game. The Tigers can ill-afford running backs Cory Boyd and Mike Davis breaking off six and seven yard runs like they did last year in Death Valley and expect to win. Simply put, the Clemson defense has to take away either the pass or the run to keep an offense that's found a rhythm in its last two and a half quarters against Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida in check. Gamecock wide receiver Kenny McKinley has been solid this season, bringing in 69 catches for 843 yards and seven touchdowns, but the Tigers appear to match up better with South Carolina's passing attack with corners Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor in coverage and with Sidney Rice moving on to the NFL.

SPECIAL TEAMS - Give South Carolina the advantage in the kicking game as Ryan Succop has connected on 13-of-17 field goals (long of 49) and all 34 of his PATs. Mark Buchholz has connected on 17-of-27 field goals (long of 52) and all 44 of his extra points. The Tigers have become dangerous on kickoff returns by the elusiveness of C.J. Spiller. The sophomore out of Lake Butler, Fla. is averaging almost 32 yards per return and has two touchdowns on the season.

INTANGIBLES - The big question entering Saturday's game is how will the last week affect the two teams? South Carolina has lost four games in a row but has had an off-week to rectify its problems. Meanwhile Clemson lost a heartbreaker to Boston College which means no trip to Jacksonville for the ACC Championship game. Can the Tigers rebound and are the Gamecocks refreshed? No will know for sure until after the game Saturday.

PREDICTION: Clemson 24 South Carolina 20
Generally speaking, the more talented team usually wins this game. This year that team is Clemson. The Tigers are healthier and have fewer questions on their offensive and defensive lines plus more weapons on offense.

PRE-GAME SHOW INFO: The Tiger Pre-game Show with Roy Philpott and Scott Rhymer will be broadcasting live from Columbia, S.C. 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM Saturday afternoon. Tune in to 104.9 WCCP FM in upstate South Carolina or on the world wide web on wccpfm.com as we celebrate our 61st consecutive game broadcasting on location covering your Clemson Tigers.

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