Clemson tailback C.J. Spiller has the Heisman Trophy campaign, the sprinter's speed and the list of ACC and school records.
But it is Tigers quarterback Kyle Parker who has the attention of South Carolina's defensive chief.
Ellis Johnson, the assistant head coach for defense, said Parker has been the difference of late. During the Tigers' six-game winning streak, Parker has completed 91 of 144 passes for 1,187 yards and 13 touchdowns, with just four interceptions.
He has thrown at least one touchdown in each of the six games, tying a school record, and his eight wins are the most nationally among freshman quarterbacks.
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"He ain't missing a beat. He's making the right reads. He's buying time when the protection breaks down. His throws are accurate," Johnson said Wednesday. "He's giving kids a chance to make plays that are great players, and he's giving kids a chance to make plays that aren't that great of players. ... We've got to find some way to affect him."
The Tigers are averaging 40.7 points and 415.8 yards a game during their win streak. But USC defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye likes how the Gamecocks match up.
"I feel we're going to do our thing regardless of how good or talented their offense is because we've been working hard this week," Ajiboye said. "I feel real confident about the defense going to dominate, and the rest is going to take care of itself. Clemson has a good offense, though."
Staying home. Johnson, a Clemson assistant from 1994-96, is the 10th coach to work at USC and Clemson. Johnson believes the state's high school coaches need to show more pride in both programs and get their players to consider staying in-state.
"Guys will run out and fall over themselves to try to let (Southern Cal coach) Pete Carroll out of the car, but they won't grant the same courtesies to coaches that come from in-state. And I think it's a lack of self-respect," said Johnson, a Winnsboro native who was a high school coach in South Carolina from 1976-81.
"I want to see it reach the point where these two programs, not to the mention the I-AA programs, are playing on a level where we get some national respect," said Johnson, a former Citadel head coach.
Culliver's travels. Free safety Chris Culliver had a solid game against Florida with a sack and five tackles after a one-game absence. The junior was benched, partly to heal his shoulder and partly as punishment for attitude issues.
Culliver said the week off was good for his body and mind. "It benefited me a lot as far as my recovery and just getting back in the groove of things," Culliver said.
Culliver is the team's third-leading tackler with 54 stops, but he has no interceptions after making three last season. He indicated he likely would ask for an evaluation from the NFL's underclassmen advisory committee but stressed that is not his focus.
"I talked to coach (Steve) Spurrier about that, and as far as going to the NFL, that's not my priority," he said. "Maybe that might be something later on down the road. But right now my focus is on Clemson."
The other guy. USC's Brian Maddox has been the forgotten tailback this week - which the Anderson native understands.
"We're playing an explosive back in C.J. Spiller. He's a great running back. He can do a lot of things," Maddox said. "It'll be interesting to see how we contain him."
Maddox, who had four carries for 25 yards last year at Clemson, is coming off an 82-yard rushing performance against No. 1 Florida.
Extra points. USC players will have Thanksgiving lunch at the Epworth Children's Home today before practicing in the afternoon. ... Right tackle Hutch Eckerson (shoulder) didn't wear his yellow, noncontact jersey and is expected to share snaps Saturday with Quintin Richardson. ... Backup defensive tackle Kenny Davis missed practice for a funeral.