Clemson gameday preview

November 28, 2009 

  • SOUTH CAROLINA VS. CLEMSON

    107th meeting: Tigers (8-3) at Gamecocks (6-5)

    WHEN: Noon Saturday

    WHERE: Williams-Brice Stadium

    LINE: Clemson by 3

    TV: ESPN (TWC 26/DTV 206/DISH 140)

    RADIO: WNKT-FM 107.5, ESPN 93.1 FM

    ONLINE: Seth Emerson blogs live from the game Saturday at gogamecocks.com

Injury report, five game storylines, five questions with Jacoby Ford and more.

INJURIES

Clemson: Out - OL J.K. Jay (back).

South Carolina - OL Hutch Eckerson (shoulder), DE Cliff Matthews (shoulder) and SS Darian Stewart (shoulder) will play.

FIVE STORYLINES

Collecting rent

Not only has Clemson dominated the rivalry for little more than a decade, it has owned USC's home turf. The Tigers are 9-1 in Williams-Brice since 1988. After last year's 31-14 triumph in Death Valley, athletics director Terry Don Phillips made the unconventional move of promoting former receivers coach Dabo Swinney from interim to full-time head coach. And if Swinney can sustain Clemson's successful stretch in Columbia, school administraters are going to feel confident the $1 million raise Swinney recently triggered is worth every penny.

Full steam ahead

Players and coaches said all the right things this week about how Clemson would not have an emotional letdown after winning the ACC Atlantic Division title last weekend. But it remains to be seen whether Clemson can summon the level of intensity it will need to match USC's.

Credibility check

The Tigers have the chance to win their first ACC crown since 1991. But Clemson fans might find it hard to brag about this year's accomplishments if the team loses the rivalry game. To that end, Saturday would help not only the Tigers' reputation but that of the ACC.

Riding the wave

With the program's biggest game in 18 years next week, Clemson does not want to lose the momentum of its six-game winning streak. A defeat would not be the end of the world, but it would be an emotional letdown. The Tigers have pushed all the right buttons the past two months. But they have more to lose Saturday than to gain.

In the moment

Depending on how long Heisman Trophy voters hold onto their ballots, running back C.J. Spiller has one or two more chances to show why he should at least be a finalist invited to the presentation in New York. This is not as big a stage as the ACC championship. But after last week's performance against Virginia, Spiller could use some highlight reel material to spruce up his candidacy.

Five questions with WR Jacoby Ford

Wide Receiver No. 6 Royal Palm Beach, Fla.

Ford, a senior, has caught a long touchdown pass in each of his two games against USC (he did not play in 2007 because of injury).

Do you buy into talk that you have to be worried about a letdown?

Definitely not. South Carolina, that's the one game every year you look forward to because it's bragging rights for who has the better players and the better team. We're definitely going to be fired up to play those guys.

Is this week different because you have the ACC title game next week?

It's different. But this is a team that's very capable of beating us. But we have to go out there and keep playing like we have been and not look toward the ACC championship. We can handle that next week.

You've heard how Clemson has dominated the rivalry. Does it boil down to mentality, having better players?

I just think when it comes down to this game, it's about pride and pure heart. Our coaches have put us in great position to win the game, and we've known how to win. But every game is always physical and they're always a good team. It's just a matter of who's going to go out there and make the plays and channels the emotion. And that's something we have to do a good job with this weekend because of the ACC championship.

Do they need this more than you?

I definitely think the game's important to them, because who doesn't want to better their season and get to a better bowl. We know they're going to be hungry. But if we execute like we have the last few weeks, we should be all right.

Did you have any feel for USC-Clemson being a rivalry before you got to college?

I didn't know anything about it at first. But as time went on, (academic advisor) Wayne Coffman, the week of the South Carolina game, he just started walking around with this rubber chicken he says he keeps in his drawer all year until this week. I heard how serious this rivalry was, but I didn't think it could be that bad. And when I got through the first game, I was like, "Wow, this is pretty intense." Florida-Florida State, I thought that was intense. But this one here probably means more to the fans.

GAME WITHIN A GAME

Clemson QB Kyle Parker vs. USC LB Eric Norwood

About Parker: Ask coaches to pinpoint one reason for the team's six-game winning streak, and the answer is the redshirt freshman's development. During that span, he has completed 63.2 percent of his passes and thrown 14 touchdown passes to four interceptions. He leads the nation in wins for a freshman quarterback.

How he'll win: Parker's stretch has been highlighted by reducing the number of ill-advised passes he tried earlier this year. He has also displayed a knack for the spectacular. And with good protection, Parker could exploit USC's underneath coverage and inconsistent safeties.

Key number: 18. Touchdown passes, fourth-most in Clemson's single-season history

About Norwood: USC's career leader in sacks is in line to challenge his single-season best total of nine a year ago, ranking second in the SEC with seven this season. He is a big-game player and his final home game qualifies as one of those moments.

How he'll win: Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson does a masterful job of moving Norwood around to add an element of unpredictability. The Tigers have succeeded at minimizing rush ends this year, but Norwood is the first true edge linebacker they will have had to deal with. If Norwood can get his hands on him, Parker has shown a penchant for compounding the problem by making mistakes.

Key number: 2 sacks against Clemson - one each in 2007 and 2006

STRELOW'S PREDICTION: Clemson 27, USC 24

The State is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service