Anthem Roundtable: Clemson

In this edition of the Anthem Roundtable, the crew previews the Clemson game. Look inside to check it out.

Today's roundtable features staff writer David Porter, Publisher Wes Mitchell and guest bloggers Leftover Hot Dog and Life of a Gamecock.

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

Let's get down to it...


South Carolina's defense has been exceptional for much of the year but has struggled against some of the better passing teams it has faced. Clemson's offense has had its own struggles the last couple of weeks, though. Will USC's defense look more like the one against Arkansas or the one against the other teams they've played?


PORTER: It's hard to say because you can't really compare Clemson's offense to Arkansas'. They both like to throw the ball a lot, but it's completely different systems. I compare Clemson's offense to that of Auburns. Gus Malzhan and Chad Morris both come from the same school of offensive theory so Auburn would be the best to use and South Carolina did really well against those Tigers. However, Clemson has more playmakers than that Auburn team had, with the exception of Michael Dyer. I expect the Gamecock defense to do much better than they did against the Razorbacks.

MITCHELL: While Clemson will definitely attack vertical at times, they don't do it near as much as Arkansas did and that's a good thing for South Carolina. I'd expect them to take their shots today, though. The biggest thing is Clemson has struggled on the offensive line. Arkansas combined a solid o-line with a quarterback good at moving around in the pocket. Clemson will get its points but this is a much better match-up for USC than Arkansas was.

LOHD: USC is ready. The team knows this game defines the season and the ten game plateau is at stake. The defense will be ready and knows what it takes to slow Clemson's offense. The front four plays a key role in this game as does the linebackers. Both units have played great of late and it should continue. Look for SC to play lights out with swagger.

LIFE: USC's defense will look a bit more like it did against the other teams than it did against Arkansas. The Gamecocks will not be afraid of this Clemson offense this weekend as they know they have the talent to beat them. USC has the speed on defense to keep up with the Clemson playmakers and try and neutralize any threat they may have. Clemson may get a few big plays here and there but USC should be able hold their own this weekend.


Does the fact South Carolina has won the last two games in this series give them the mental edge or give Clemson the extra motivation?


PORTER: I think it does both. The way the Gamecocks have dominated the last two meetings, they clearly feel like they are the better team despite the success Clemson has had this season. At the same time, Clemson has heard for the last year that it has been 40 years since they lost consecutive meetings to Carolina. They certainly do not want to hear the same for the next year so they certainly have all the motivation in the world to win this game.

MITCHELL: It's definitely a little bit of both, but when you consider the mental edge Clemson seemed to hold over USC for so long, I'd give the slight edge to the two victories in a row. South Carolina needed to get over the hump of winning two in a row last year. They'll have to prove they can get over the same hump with three in a row today.

LOHD: Winning always helps. I'd give the edge to SC in the mental category with this rivalry even though there is motivation for Clemson to break the streak. The reason SC gets the edge is due to the fact this is Carolina's last game of the season before a bowl. The team has to lay it all out there and hanging back-to-back wins helps.

LIFE: I believe the Gamecocks should have the mental edge in this game. All the pressure will be on Clemson since they've struggled the last few weeks and will have an eye on the ACC Championship. For South Carolina, this becomes their "championship" game this year. They know what it takes to get past the Tigers and you have to believe they'll have the extra bit of confidence in this Saturday's game.


You're South Carolina having to defend against freshman phenom Sammy Watkins – what's your game plan?


PORTER: Assuming Watkins is healthy, you have to be physical with him. You need to do a lot of bump-and-run at the line of scrimmage and try to knock him off his route. He's certainly not a small kid at 6'1, 200 pounds, but he is not a physical player. At the same time you have to be careful that he doesn't fly by you for a huge gain. I would expect to see a good bit of bump-and-run with safety help over the top.

MITCHELL: You're not going to defend Sammy Watkins. He's going to get his plays. I believe it all starts up-front. The best way to slow Watkins is to keep Tajh Boyd from getting the ball to Watkins.

LOHD: With respect to Sammy Watkins, it is about two things - tackle well and "lay the wood" on him. USC must contain him and that can be done via good tackling. When he does have the ball, SC must try to hit him hard so he rethinks that injury or begins to "hear footsteps."

LIFE: I think the game plan against Sammy Watkins is something South Carolina has seen all year with how teams game plan against Alshon Jeffery. The Gamecocks will need to have a safety over the top just in case Watkins breaks free the cornerback. Stephon Gilmore will probably draw Watkins a lot and can be a lock-down corner on the talented freshman. I expect a lot of double teams on him trying to keep him out of the game.


What type of game does Connor Shaw need to have for South Carolina to win?


PORTER: He has to manage the game. He has to do what the coaches ask him to do and play within himself. He does not need to try and win the game or force anything. He also needs to be effective on the zone read. Clemson has struggled against mobile running backs so if he can be effective running the football it could lead to long drives and keep that Tiger offense on the sidelines.

MITCHELL: This may be a game Connor Shaw is needed to take over for South Carolina to win. Clemson has not had much success stopping running quarterback and Shaw is going to have to get a lot of yardage on the ground. In the passing game, he just need to let it go and trust his reads.

LOHD: Connor Shaw needs mistake-free living. He just needs to manage the offense, get some decent runs going and excel in the short passing game. Love to see him and the offense have a 200 yards rushing to go with 200 yards passing.

LIFE: Connor Shaw will need to be mistake-free to help the Gamecocks win this weekend. He'll need to be efficient with the football and try and limit the mental errors that can cost your team the win. We've seen a scrambling quarterback give Clemson trouble this year so some heads up running by the young quarterback could really give the Gamecocks an edge. He can keep plays alive with his feet and is fast enough to get down field in a hurry. It would also be beneficial for USC if Shaw can be patient with his receivers and allow them to run their routes. There could be a big play developing down field if he gives it just an extra second or so and then delivering the football. This could be determined by the offensive line play though. Hopefully Connor Shaw will come to play this Saturday. He'll be a big part of the Gamecocks offensive success for sure.


What's the single biggest key to victory for South Carolina?


PORTER: Establish the run. Clemson has struggled against the run and have struggled tackling and the Gamecocks have been running the ball well all year. That has to excite Brandon Wilds. Wilds and Shaw will both need to run the ball well. Carolina has to keep Clemson's offense on the sidelines so running the ball will be the best way to manage the clock, similar to what they were able to do in 2009.

MITCHELL: Pressure with the front four. If the Gamecocks can do that, it should turn out good for them.

LOHD: The single biggest key for USC is the play of the offensive line. Success begins with them and ends with them. They must create running lanes and provide time for Connor Shaw. Do that and USC wins.

LIFE: The biggest key to victory is for the Gamecocks to contain the big play. Clemson seems to live or die by big plays and if South Carolina can keep Sammy Watkins and Andre Ellington in check then I think the Gamecocks will have a great chance at victory. Winner the turnover battle could also be another big key to victory for South Carolina against Clemson. The last few weeks have been rough on the Tigers' offense in regards to turnovers so if USC picks up a few then that's another great opportunity for victory.


PREDICTION?


PORTER: There are some very interesting stats in this series. Though Clemson has a large lead in the series, there hasn't been a ton of blowouts. Clemson has averaged 19.5 points per game while Carolina has averaged 13.5, a touchdown difference. 44 of the games have been decided by 10 points or less and in the last 51 years, 32 times the difference has been less than two scores. That tells me that the last three years have been the exception, not the rule. I'm expecting nothing less of a battle that will come down to the final few seconds, much like in 2006 and 2007. I believe Carolina will hold the ball and keep Clemson off the field. The Gamecocks do not want to get into a shootout. If the Gamecocks get the early lead, expect a lot of running. South Carolina will get three in a row, 26-24.

MITCHELL: I have no idea which direction this game is going to go. It could go any numbers of ways in how it plays out. Ultimately, I think South Carolina finds a way -- I'll say 28-24.

LOHD: USC wins this game 24-10. Clemson will have trouble moving the ball. USC will find success via the run game thanks to the run-option scheme with Shaw and Brandon Wilds.

LIFE: I've been back and forth this week on this game and it's been tough to come up with a prediction but I think I have to go with the Gamecocks winning 28-24 over the Tigers. This one will be much closer than the last two matchups and could require a late defensive stop by the Gamecocks to secure a victory. Hopefully South Carolina will come away victorious and add their 10th win on the year and get ready to go bowling.


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