For just the second time this season I'm veering off the usual course for my weekly prediction.
There's little need to over-analyze the Clemson-South Carolina matchup. Both offenses struggle. Both defenses are playing very well. On paper it looks like a low-scoring matchup (which, as these things sometimes happen, leads me to consider it could end up being a shootout. But more on that in just a moment).
The storylines to watch here are simple:
Will Clemson beat the Gamecocks and become bowl eligible?
Who will be the Tigers' head coach before the next game, be it a bowl or the '09 season opener?
For all the speculation by - and hope of - fans, no one knows what's really going on behind the scenes of the coaching search. Yes, a few interviews have been confirmed. But what Terry Don Phillips is really thinking at this point is anyone's guess.
I do know that I agree with something Ron Morris of The State wrote yesterday:
This game will not seal the fate of Dabo Swinney one way or the other. Could a blowout in either direction be a final bit of inspiration for Phillips? Possibly.
But TDP's decision on Swinney's future will be judged over the full body of work - both on and off the field.
It could be that the AD has seen enough to believe that Dabo is his man. Or just as likely, as impressive as Swinney has been in so many ways, Phillips may have already settled on moving in another direction.
Whichever way it turns out, the decision is at hand. The waiting and speculation is just about over. And in a few days - maybe even a few hours - after Saturday's finale at Death Valley, Clemson will have football coach signed to a long-term contract.
So what about my prediction?
One of the reasons I've done so well this year (9-2 at this writing, having missed only the Alabama and Ga. Tech games) is a change of direction on my part.
Instead of predicting the outcome based on what could possibly happen if things went well, I simply went with my gut feeling. Ironically, as my gut has gotten smaller my instinct has gotten better. Could be a one-year phenomenon. But hey, you take it when you can get it.
So here's what my gut is telling me regarding Saturday.
Clemson wins a low-scoring, ugly game. It comes down not to a field goal, but perhaps a gamble on fourth and short; or a trick play. Something out of the ordinary will push the Tigers over the top and into a bowl.
Shortly thereafter, Dabo Swinney will be named the new Clemson head coach.
If he goes 4-2 and gets to a bowl with the mess he inherited in mid-October, what more could Phillips ask?
THE PICK: Clemson 19, South Carolina 14
Dan Scott Preview & Prediction
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