WHERE: Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250) - Columbia, S.C.
WHEN: Friday, November 28 (Noon)
SPREAD: Clemson -3
Clemson and South Carolina have played every year since 1909 with the Tigers holding a 65-37-4 all-time record against the Gamecocks. Lately, Clemson has owned the rivalry even more than that record indicates, as the Tigers have won 10 of the last 12 games and nine of the last 10 inside of Williams-Brice Stadium.
In addition, Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks haven't won since beating Vanderbilt 14-10 on October 24. After a 5-1 start, South Carolina has stumbled once again to the end of the regular season with a 6-5 record.
Clemson's season, of course, has been the polar opposite.
Dabo Swinney's first season as the full-time head coach saw a 2-3 start before the Tigers reeled off six-straight wins on the way to winning the ACC Atlantic Division.
Here's one last look at the matchups that will determine Palmetto State supremacy for the next year:
CLEMSON RUNNING GAME VS. SOUTH CAROLINA FRONT SEVEN
Swinney has preached the importance of Clemson's running game all week, correlating the Tigers' success on Saturday with their ability to run the ball.
C.J. Spiller's final regular season stop on his Heisman Trophy campaign trail will need to see a big day for the Tiger's all-purpose hero. He, Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper will look to run through a South Carolina rush defense that has given up an average of 145 yards/game this season.
C.J. Spiller, who will look to improve to 3-1 against South Carolina Saturday, clearly gives the Tigers the edge in the running game. (Roy Philpott)
Paving the way for the Clemson running backs is an offensive line that has emerged as one of the best in the ACC. The Tigers have rushed for an average of 166 yards/game, which is 43rd best in the nation. Thomas Austin, who toughed out a sprained ankle from the N.C. State game to play against Virginia, not only leads the offensive line, but is one of the team's vocal leaders as well. To his left at tackle is Chris Hairston. With Hairston in the starting lineup this season, Clemson is 8-1.
South Carolina's front seven is led by All-American linebacker Eric Norwood, who is in the top 10 career tackles for loss in the SEC (53.5). The Gamecocks will occasionally go with odd-man fronts, moving Norwood around to help disguise unexpected pressure from different points on the field. Consider that against Arkansas and Florida, South Carolina started with a three-man line and four linebackers. Against Florida Atlantic, the defense started in a 3-3-5.
Since the 16-10 win over Mississippi in September, South Carolina has given up at least 139 yards per contest, except for the Arkansas game-- the Razorbacks scored three rushing touchdowns.
Middle linebacker Shaq Wilson leads South Carolina with 73 tackles. Norwood is second with 66 and first in tackles for loss with 10.5.
The matchup has set up the same for Saturday as it was last season. Clemson struggled to run the ball in the week before against Virginia before having its way on the ground versus South Carolina.
Expect similar results Saturday.
SOUTH CAROLINA PASSING VS. CLEMSON SECONDARY/PASS RUSH
Four Clemson interceptions in last year's game led to South Carolina's demise in Death Valley. A year later, however, quarterback play has improved considerably.
Garcia has thrown for 2,607 yards, 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions. His 123.91 efficiency rating is 73rd best in the country.(Getty Images)
Garcia throws to a receiving corps that's full of tall, rangy athletes. Freshman Alshon Jeffery leads the team with 39 receptions for 670 yards and six touchdowns. His 17.2 yards/reception average is also tops on the team. Moe Brown is the shortest regular among the Gamecock receivers at 6-0 and he's also Garcia's second favorite target with 31 receptions for 454 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end Weslye Saunders is a load at 280 pounds and has had several big games this season. He's third on the team with 28 receptions and has 350 yards receiving with one touchdown.
Interceptions have been as big a part of Clemson's defensive success. DeAndre McDaniel has tied the school's single-season record of eight interceptions. Fellow safety Rashard Hall has five. Hall has as many interceptions as the South Carolina defense has as a team.
Clemson gives up an average of 169.82 yards/game--12th best. The Tiger's pass efficiency defense is among the best in the nation at 107.21--17th best.
Opponents have sacked Garcia 33 times this season-- including six by Florida two weeks ago. The three sack a game average is 109th worst in the nation.
Clemson has recorded 33 sacks, also for a three sack a game average, which is 11th best in the nation.
Ricky Sapp leads the team with five. Da'Quan Bowers and Brandon Maye both have three.
Facing a receiving corps that is very similar to Miami's Clemson could give up a few big plays in the vertical passing game. As the game moves into its later stages, look for the pressure from Kevin Steele's defense to take its toll on a porous Gamecock offensive line, forcing Garcia to make some throws before he's ready to release the ball.
CLEMSON SPECIAL TEAMS VS. SOUTH CAROLINA SPECIAL TEAMS
Clemson ranks among the nation's elite in punt and kick returns while South Carolina is among the worst in covering kicks. Opponents have returned two kickoffs to the house.
With C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford (pictured above) the reasons behind the success in Clemson's return game, the Tigers will enjoy favorable field position all afternoon, especially since the Gamecocks aren't likely to kick their way. (Roy Philpott)
Richard Jackson made all four extra-\ points and made two of his three field goal attempts last week. He's fifth in the nation with 1.73 field goals/game. South Carolina's Spencer Lanning has enjoyed a solid season and will handle punting and place kicking duties.
During Chris Culliver's three seasons at South Carolina, he's amassed 2,215 yards on 94 kick returns--fifth best all-time in the SEC.
Norwood has proved his worth on special teams by blocking three kicks but the advantage here goes to the Tigers because of Spiller and Ford in the return game.
Keep in mind Clemson has also blocked three punts in the last two meetings between the two schools.
CLEMSON PASSING VS. SOUTH CAROLINA SECONDARY/PASS RUSH
Kyle Parker continues to make name for himself on the gridiron and continues to climb the nation's quarterback efficiency rating list. His 128.81 rating is 59th best.
Overall, he's thrown for 2,082 yards, completing almost 56 percent of his passes and currently has a 2-1 touchdown to interception ratio (18-9).
Kyle Parker has thrown for 2,082 yards, completing almost 56 percent of his passes and currently has a 2-1 touchdown to interception ratio (18-9). (Roy Philpott)
Michael Palmer is having one the best seasons a Clemson tight end has seen in years. He's second on the team with 30 receptions for 333 yards receiving and three touchdowns. Spiller isn't far behind Palmer with 29 receptions. He's second on the team with 421 yards and four touchdowns through the air.
Despite losing four defensive backs from last season, the Gamecock secondary is seventh best in the nation, in terms of passing yards allowed (163.34/game). Despite having just five interceptions as a team--two by Norwood--the team defends against the pass as well as anyone
South Carolina's pass rush is led by the one-two punch of Norwood and defensive end Cliff Matthews. They are second and seventh, respectively, in the SEC in sacks. Matthews' six is better than his career total heading into the season. Norwood started the season third all-time in school history in sacks. The seven he's recorded this season moved him into first. He's tied with Richard Tardits for seventh all-time in SEC history.
As a team, the Gamecocks have 25 sacks for a 2.27 per game average, which is 41st in the nation.
Clemson has allowed 17 sacks for a 1.55 per game average.
Not since the Georgia Tech loss has Clemson faced the challenge of dealing with a loud crowd on the road. As long as the game doesn't take shape in a 63-17-like affair, the Gamecock faithful could make life difficult for the Tiger's communication.
Still, the Tigers have scored more than 34 points per game in each of their last six games - all wins, and Kyle Parker and the passing game have been a major reason why.
SOUTH CAROLINA RUNNING GAME VS. CLEMSON FRONT SEVEN
South Carolina's rushing attack has struggled in its last three outings, rushing for a combined 179 yards on 78 carries. Furthermore, the Gamecocks haven't rushed for more than 128 yards against an FBS opponent.
South Carolina's rushing attack has struggled in the last three outings, rushing for a combined 179 yards on 78 carries. Furthermore, the Gamecocks haven't rushed for more than 128 yards against an FBS opponent. (Getty Images)
The rushing offense is 97th best, averaging 116 yards rushing.
Right guard T.J. Johnson is the only member of the line that has started all 11 games.
Clemson's defense has been susceptible to the run by opposing quarterbacks. Though Garcia has netted just 84 yards rushing, he's gained 313 yards--losing the vast majority of those yards to sacks.
Maye leads the Clemson defense with 81 tackles, six going for loss. Fellow linebacker Kavell Conner has 71 tackles on nearly 150 less snaps than Maye. Conner has five tackles for loss. Defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins is a load inside, leading the team with 10 tackles for loss.
The Tigers' four-man rotation at defensive end and five man group used at the interior spots will wear down the Gamecock offensive line.
PREDICTION: Clemson 20 South Carolina 13