The bad news for No. 15 Clemson's defense: It's next opponent is the ACC's preeminent rushing quarterback.
The good news: Georgia Tech's Josh Nesbitt runs out of triple-option formations, nothing resembling the read-option or wildcat looks.
Variations of those two offenses continued to confound the Tigers, providing the backbone of USC's 223-yard rushing performance Saturday - the second-most in Steve Spurrier's five seasons.
As Clemson expected, the Gamecocks used freshman corner Stephon Gilmore as its "WildCock" quarterback on the team's second drive. But the Tigers couldn't stop him as Gilmore engineered a seven-play, 60-yard touchdown drive.
This came on the heels of Virginia running back Mikell Simpson last week carving up Clemson in a similar package before being injured.
Furthermore, excluding a sack, USC quarterback Stephen Garcia gained 59 yards on 13 runs, tallying a season-high 46 yards officially.
Dating back to the Sept. 26 loss to TCU, the Tigers have proven susceptible to quarterbacks running the read-option.
Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said USC's offensive linemen managed to open running lanes because of repeated mistakes by defensive linemen playing the wrong gaps.
"That's not something strange," defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said. "We practiced that all week long. It's not some surprise or trick play. We just didn't get it stopped. We didn't line up right and get it stopped."
Clemson's loss Saturday means nothing to its postseason destination if it defeats No. 7 Georgia Tech in Saturday's ACC championship game in Tampa, Fla. That would earn the Tigers BCS a berth in the Jan. 5 Orange Bowl in Miami.
But if the Tigers lose, the loss to USC could send the Tigers sliding down the ACC tie-in pecking order.
The Chick-fil-A Bowl has the first choice after the BCS, and No. 14 Virginia Tech (9-3, 6-2) strengthened its bid for selection with a win Saturday.
While there had been sentiment the Jan. 1 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., might pass up bringing the Tigers for a second straight year, the Gator's other top choice - No. 24 North Carolina - fell from consideration with its upset loss to N.C. State.
That leaves the Tar Heels at 4-4 in the ACC, two wins below Clemson (6-2), and the ACC tie-ins must choose a team within one win of the best-available option. The Gator would then be left to pick between Clemson, Miami (5-3) and Boston College (5-3).
The Tigers are not expected to slip below the Dec. 29 Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
The notion of emotion
With the ACC title game looming, quarterback Kyle Parker said he believed the Tigers approached Saturday's game with too much confidence. And linebacker Brandon Maye said the team lacked its usual excitement level.
"We showed up and thought we'd put the pads on and that we were better than them," Parker said.
But tight end Michael Palmer, running back C.J. Spiller and guard Thomas Austin, on the other hand, didn't consider that a valid criticism. And coach Dabo Swinney dismissed the notion of an emotional letdown.
"I didn't see lack of intensity," Swinney said. "I just saw lack of execution. We just didn't play well."
Palmer's eight catches were the second-most in a game by a Clemson tight end. John McMakin had nine against Florida State in 1970. ... While Spiller's Heisman hopes likely endured a fatal blow, his 88-yard kickoff return extended his streak of scoring a touchdown in every game this season. ... Parker has thrown a touchdown pass in seven straight games, a school record. Woody Dantzler (2000) and Mike Eppley (1984) had shared the mark.