Todd Ellis talks Carolina/Clemson

Todd Ellis joined 107.5 The Game Friday afternoon to discuss Saturday's contest between South Carolina and Clemson. Ellis talked about what Carolina needs to do on both sides of the ball in order to beat Clemson for the fourth time in a row. Ellis even talked about the confidence, or lack thereof, Clemson fans have about Saturday's game.

Former South Carolina quarterback and current voice of the Gamecocks football team Todd Ellis joined 107.5 The Game Friday afternoon to discuss Saturday's rivalry game between South Carolina and Clemson. For the first time in the history of the rivalry both teams are ranked in the top 12 of the BCS as No. 11 Clemson hosts No. 12 South Carolina, and if that wasn't enough to amp up the rivalry more than it has been, Clemson sits at 10-1 with a potential shot at a BCS at-large bid while Carolina, 9-2, will need a lot of help from other SEC teams to try and earn a bid.

"There's a lot of eyes that are going to be watching this ball game and it's not just Carolina and Clemson folks, it will be nation on what could happen," Ellis said. "What could be sweeter than the Gamecocks potentially taking away a BCS Bowl game from the Clemson Tigers?"

For South Carolina to have the opportunity to pull the mild upset and win their fourth game in a row over the Tigers, they will obviously have to find a way to slow down a potent offensive attack. Clemson is averaging a mind-staggering 536 yards of offense per game and nearly 45 points per game.

"Of course holding their successful offense in a season in which they've put up incredible numbers averaging 44 points a game to shut them down once again (will be tough)," Ellis said. "I know Clemson would like to break the streak, obviously, and end some of these great runs that Steve Spurrier has been having and have the momentum swing back to them. It really is almost the perfect scenario. If South Carolina had come in there with just one loss and have the potential to go to the SEC Championship were locked in and a BCS Bowl game would have been perfect, but this is pretty darn close. A lot of things are on the line in Memorial Stadium (Saturday) night."

With that potent offensive attack going against a secondary that has turned out to be the lone weakness in the South Carolina defense, Clemson fans feel like they can outscore the Carolina offense and get the huge win. There's a quiet confidence in the upstate that fans believe they are better than Carolina, but they also know that South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has had Dabo Swinney's number in the last three meetings.

"My son sometimes when I took him out water skiing for the first time or jet skiing or doing some activity like playing football they'd have this look on their face like they're excited, but definitely afraid," Ellis said. "I think a lot of Clemson people are that way. I think there's a going on out there because they believe what a lot of people think and that is that somehow Steve Spurrier over the last three years has solved the orange riddle. There's no more thought that they are going to come in and roll over the Gamecocks."

One of the reasons Clemson fans are a bit unsure of their chances is because they brought an offense down to Columbia last season that was nearly as potent as this offense has been this year with many of the same players and were completely dominated by Carolina's defense. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd was abused by the defensive front, getting sacked five times and completing just 11-of-29 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown with one interception.

"I respect their numbers and do think they are better on offense than they've been, even last year when they were putting up gaudy numbers," Ellis said. "The fact remains that they have not gained more than 250 yards against the Gamecocks in the last two years and 183 in total last year. I'm not saying they're not going to put up bigger numbers, I'm just telling you that I don't think there's this great Clemson confidence out there. I think they realize that much of big time football is about defense and they know the Gamecocks have a good one."

If South Carolina's defensive front can get pressure on Boyd and affect him they won't allow the Tigers to get in that rhythm that is so critical to their success. Carolina does not necessarily have to top last year's sack total or even equal it, but they must get in his line of vision, knock him around, and make him feel uncomfortable in the pocket. The few times Boyd has struggled in 2012 has been when defenses get pressure on him and make him feel uncomfortable in the pocket.

On the other side of the ball, the Carolina offense can be the best defense on the field Saturday night. If the Gamecocks offense can stay on the field and keep that Clemson offense on the sidelines, they will get a big high five from defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward and the defensive players. That will begin up front with a Carolina offensive line that has underperformed for much of the season against a Clemson defensive line that has shown improvement in recent weeks against the run. Of course when teams are throwing it up and down the field against the Clemson secondary they aren't going to run the ball as much. That won't happen this weekend.

"(Offensive line) Coach (Shawn) Elliott wants to do what they've done the last couple of years," Ellis said. "The team that has run the ball better has won this game every year since 2000 with the exception of one game and that is the key to it. Now granted, once you get the lead you tend to run the ball more but the point is you have to be able to run it once you get the lead and South Carolina's been able to do that."

The man they will be blocking for the majority of the game will be senior running back Kenny Miles. Miles has enjoyed two of his better performances against Clemson. In 2009 Miles burst onto the scene with a breakout game against the Tigers, running the ball 17 times for 114 yards in one of four career 100-yard performances. Just last season Miles carried the ball for a then career-high 21 times for 71 yards, but is still looking for his first touchdown against the Tigers. When Miles is getting a breather, it will be freshman Mike Davis receiving the handoffs. It will be the first time a Davis has run the ball in Memorial Stadium since James Davis, Mike's brother, was the Clemson running back as part of the thunder-and-lightning duo with C.J. Spiller.

"I couldn't be more pleased with a freshman running back than Mike Davis," Ellis said. "He's explosive, he's been reliable, and he had that big fumble Saturday that could have changed the game but otherwise has protected the football well for a freshman. I do think you will see him in this game, but this is going to be Kenny Miles's game to grind out. He has four 100-yard rushing games in his career and one is against Clemson. He's been pushing towards that last week with his best career game with 27 carries and 127 yards. I think Kenny is going to get a bulk of the carries, but Mike will play a role in it."

Of course one of the biggest questions of the week has been who it is that will be handing the ball off to Miles and Davis Saturday night. Quarterback Connor Shaw tweaked his ankle in last week's 24-7 win over Wofford and did not practice Monday or Tuesday. He returned Wednesday night and the decision will be made Saturday on who will start. Though the safe bet is on Shaw starting the game, Ellis believes both quarterbacks will get an opportunity to throw the ball around against a weak Clemson secondary that has also been battling injuries.

"I think we'll likely see Dylan Thompson," Ellis said. "The fact is that Shaw didn't practice much this week. He's a gamer and we already know that, but he's got a bum foot and last year he ran for 107 yards and it is unlikely he will be capable of doing that again this ball game. I think we're likely to see both guys and I think Coach Spurrier has faith and confidence in Dylan Thompson. He's made some big plays against lesser opponents, but I also think the big stage is not going to overcome Dylan Thompson. I think you're going to see both of those quarterbacks in the game."


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