Anthem Roundtable: Clemson

Gamecock Anthem returns the weekly feature "Anthem Roundtable" as we take a look at Clemson. The Tigers are hoping to end the current three-game win streak by the Gamecocks with their high-powered offense. A win gives Steve Spurrier the most wins ever by a head coach at South Carolina. Find out what our Anthem Roundtable panelists think about the game.

The Anthem Roundtable is back for the last week of the regular season as South Carolina takes on arch-rival Clemson in what has become one of the most heated rivalries in all of college football. Clemson has a powerful offense led by quarterback Tajh Boyd while the Gamecocks are hoping their defense can keep the win streak alive for the Gamecocks.

Today's roundtable features staff writer David Porter, Publisher Adam Garrett and guest bloggers Leftover Hot Dog and The Meat Locker Sports.

Please make sure you click their names and frequent their blogs too - you won't be disappointed.

We'll get started with this week's edition of The Anthem Roundtable...

Clemson's offense has a lot of high-powered weapons thanks to Tajh DeAndre Hopkins, Andre Ellington and Sammy Watkins. Can the South Carolina defense contain an offense averaging 535.6 yards of total offense a game?

PORTER: Clemson is going to get their yards. How much pressure South Carolina's defensive line can get on Boyd is key to whether they get as many yards as they have been doing. If Boyd has time to throw the ball, he will pick Carolina's secondary apart.

GARRETT: It'll be tough to slow down the Clemson offense. They're likely to pick up a few big plays in this game as they usually do. South Carolina's defense has a front line that is nearly unmatched in college football. They've got the speed and talent that Clemson hasn't really faced this season besides Florida State. The question will be can they force Tajh Boyd into mistakes and rattle Clemson's QB. If they're able to do that then South Carolina has a great shot at victory.

LOHD: It all boils down to the South Carolina defense being able to get pressure on their quarterback. If that can happen it will help the USC secondary due to the limited time Boyd will have. USC needs a win the trench battle, close the running gaps and tackle well. Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor need to have big games off the edge while the Gamecocks secondary simply just does not need to give up the big play. Do this and USC will shut down Chad Morris's game plan.

MLS: Clemson came in bringing a lot of hype last year to Williams Brice. We're coming into Death Valley with a similar amount of hype. The offense that Chad Morris is orchestrating, flat out, is force to be reckoned with and unlike any other we've seen all season. There's a lot pride on the line this year with us having come out on top the last three years. That being said, I feel like the defense knows what needs to be done. Get Tajh out of the pocket and make him think on the run, which in turn will cause the offense and the tempo to suffer. Ultimately we haven't played all that well on the road this year and we need to force the pressure and make some disruptive plays. Spurrier said it best when comparing the Gamecocks being Stanford and how they stopped Oregon last week.

Do you have any doubts in your mind that Connor Shaw won't play this weekend against Clemson? How effective will he be this weekend?

PORTER: No. Hearing it in G.A. Mangus' voice Wednesday night sounded pretty positive. Shaw will play and should be close to 100%, but if he tweaks that ankle he could be in trouble. I think he will be effective as long as he doesn't tweak that ankle.

GARRETT: Connor Shaw will play. He could be getting closer to full health by Saturday's game but he'll need to be extremely effective to give South Carolina a chance. Getting him to stay on the field and make sound decisions will help limit Clemson's offensive opportunities. We know Clemson's defense isn't that great. Shaw has a chance to put up a lot of yards on Saturday and he'll be the driving force behind a potential South Carolina victory.

LOHD: I think Connor will play but the big question is how effective will he be. My fear is he will be thinking "run first" and not be a playmaker under center. He has to have a good game and the ability for USC to win rests on his arm. Not that Dylan Thompson cannot get it done but the USC offense really clicks when Connor Shaw is "on."

MLS: None. Connor has played through a lot of pain this year and in my opinion has been the most effective and efficient quarterback we've seen in years. He's a key component to the offense and he knows that he's going to have to play well in order to provide a balanced offensive attack. I think Connor will play well and he'll play smart because that's his style of play.

Clemson has outscored their opponents in every quarter this season, especially in the first half of the game. Is the key to the game for South Carolina ball control to limit Clemson's offensive opportunities?

PORTER: That is the only way Carolina wins this game. The only thing that has stopped Clemson's offense for most of the season is the sidelines. As long as they are standing over there on the Clemson bench they can't score. Kenny Miles, Mike Davis, and even Shaw needs to establish a running game early like they did last year.

GARRETT: Keeping Clemson off the field is ideal. The less chances they have, the better for the Gamecocks. A solid running game with Shaw, Kenny Miles and Mike Davis could go a long way this weekend.

LOHD: Yes. The Gamecocks need to control the pace of the game by limiting Clemson's offensive chances and this translates into ball control plus no turnovers for USC.

MLS: Absolutely. The longer we can keep the high tempoed offense off the field is to eat the lock and own the time of possession. If the Clemson offense stays on the field, our defense is going to get tired and will become more and more susceptible to the "big play."

Will special teams play a factor in this weekend's game?

PORTER: Anytime you have two teams that are so evenly matched, special teams could end up winning the game. It may not be a blocked kick or a return for a touchdown, but someone is going to be able to change field position for their team and that could be the difference.

GARRETT: Special teams could be a big factor this weekend. Clemson gave up a lot of return yards to NC State last weekend and Ace Sanders has the ability to change the game with a punt return or two. South Carolina has given up some big gains on kick returns and will need to shore that up this weekend against Clemson. They've got speed and weapons. Keeping them bottled up will be key for the Gamecocks.

LOHD: I hope it is a non-factor but in a tight game like this it can be the difference maker. USC needs to be discipled on their coverage, kick the ball out of the endzone and be playmakers when the ball is in their hands.

MLS: Very little. The special teams play for both teams is anything but stellar. Ace Sanders clearly poses a huge threat and is always capable of making an electric play on the punt returns. In the end, I feel that special teams will not be a deciding factor in the result of this game.

What does a fourth straight win over Clemson mean for the Gamecocks?

PORTER: It would mean Carolina has complete control of this rivalry. Clemson fans feels like this is the best team they've had since the National Championship season. That very well may be the case, but if they lose to Carolina for the fourth year in a row on their own field things will begin to really shift in Carolina's favor.

GARRETT: A fourth straight win just continues to show who has the better program in state. It means coaching and talent is better than your rival and gives you the bragging rights for the year. This game will be the biggest win of the season for South Carolina if they are able to knock off the Tigers this weekend regardless of where they end up in the bowl game.

LOHD: It means a lot for the team as they continue to build the program as this can help on the recruiting trail and it means a lot for the USC fans. Nothing is sweeter than bragging rights.

MLS: It's all about bragging rights. Out of the 109 matchups, Clemson has a 60% win percentage over us. Any ground that we can gain on lowering that number is a great thing and gives us all one more year to hop on Facebook and encourage some fired up responses from our Clemson friends.

Which senior steps up big this weekend for the Gamecocks?

PORTER: Someone is going to have to make a big play on defense if Carolina hopes to win the game. My bet is on D.J. Swearinger, who is still feeling the sting of not being heavily pursued by Clemson. If Swearinger makes a play to turn the game in Carolina's favor and they go on to win it, Swearinger may go down in rivalry glory in a special category that Scott Wingo currently stands alone in.

GARRETT: I'm looking for Devin Taylor to step up this weekend. A lot of focus will be on Jadeveon Clowney but with his injured foot, it could be up to Taylor to bring the pressure this weekend.

LOHD: I look to D.J. Swearinger to play sharp but most importantly to set the pace of the defense. If he can "lay the wood" on a Clemson offensive player it will set the tone of this game that Clemson, this is not an ACC squad so you need to put on your big boy pants.

MLS: Devonte Holloman, simply because that guy has been a Clemson killer. He always shows up against the school he originally committed to. And for that, I thank him.


PORTER: I have thought over and over about this. I can see either team winning this game, but it will be much closer than the previous three have been. In my Rivalry by the Numbers series earlier in the week, I came out with a 35-31 win for Clemson. That will likely be very close to what the actual final will be. 38-35, Gamecocks find a way to score a late touchdown for the win.

GARRETT: It's always a nervous game when you're facing Clemson. Unfortunately, I haven't really gone back and forth this week on the game as I've had this sinking feeling that Clemson will beat South Carolina. I'll pick the Tigers 31-28 over the Gamecocks.

LOHD: I feel the Gamecocks edge out a win with a 34-30 win.

MLS: Bleh, I say this prediction with little confidence, simply because it's Clemson and they always pose a threat. I like us over the Tigers, 34-31.

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