Keys to Victory against Clemson

GamecockAnthem.com's Wes Mitchell highlights the five most important things Carolina must do to win the annual blood feud with Clemson and come out the winners of the biggest game of the year in the Palmetto State.

I. No Turnovers

It's no secret the Gamecock offense has struggled to put up points at times this season, and a big reason for that has been costly turnovers. The Gamecocks have turned the ball over an SEC-worst 29 times this season. As much talent as Clemson has on offense, it is severely held back by its offensive line, and the USC defense should be able to keep the Tiger speedsters bottled up. Today's affair could be a low scoring one where field position and big plays determine the winner. Steve Spurrier has been able to move the football against the Tigers in the past three years, and should be able to muster enough points to win a low-scoring game. However, if the Tigers get the ball in good field position and are able to go on short scoring drives, it could be too much for the inconsistent USC offense to overcome.

II. Limit Spiller

Clemson speed-demon C.J. Spiller has been the main cog in the Clemson offense in recent weeks and has made big play after big play. Spiller was able to get loose two years ago against the Gamecocks in Death Valley and will look to do so again this year. The Gamecocks have been much-improved against the run this season led by linebackers Eric Norwood and Jasper Brinkley and safeties Emanuel Cook and Darian Stewart. If Spiller is able to break off a few long runs, then the Clemson offense should be able to outscore the Gamecocks. However, when Spiller is slowed, so is Clemson. If the Gamecocks can stop him, then it could be a long day for the Clemson offense.

III. Protect the Quarterback

Throughout the season the South Carolina offense has lived and died by the offensive line, and Saturday should be no different. The Tigers are talented up front defensively, but have failed to get many sacks this season and will be without leading pass-rusher Ricky Sapp. That should give the offensive line the opportunity to have a productive game and give quarterback Chris Smelley time to throw. Smelley has reportedly had a good week of practice, and could be ready to have his best game since his SEC Player of the Week performance against Ole Miss.

IV. Cause Havoc on Harper

South Carolina and Clemson fans can feel each other's pain when it comes to offensive line woes. The Gamecocks' defense will look to exploit the Tigers' weaknesses up front by giving senior quarterback Cullen Harper multiple looks to confuse the Tiger offense. The South Carolina front seven is big and talented, and should be able to give the Tigers fits. When pressured, Harper has shown the tendency to make bad decisions. It will then be up to the South Carolina secondary to make Harper pay for those potential mistakes. Look for USC defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson to blitz Harper from multiple angles early and often.

V. Touchdowns Over Field Goals

The Gamecocks have had a knack for moving the football against the Tigers since Steve Spurrier arrived in Columbia, but have struggled getting to the end zone at times. Two years ago the Gamecocks were able to punch the football in the end zone using an effective sprint draw-based running game, and not coincidentally the Gamecocks won. In the last two losses against Clemson, South Carolina has settled for field goals more often than not. South Carolina will need touchdowns over field goals to beat the Tigers.


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