Josh Kendall's take on the game
The numbers, or at least a lot of them, point toward Clemson.
The Tigers are ranked No. 6 in the country compared to South Carolina’s No. 10. Clemson is No. 9 in the country in scoring, averaging 42.3 points per game, and No. 10 in total offense, averaging 516.6 yards per game. That’s AVERAGING 516 yards per game. That’s impressive no matter what neighborhood you live in. Heck, the Clemson defense is vastly improved, ranked No. 17 in the nation in points allowed (20.2 per game).
South Carolina is not ranked in the top 10 nationally in any significant statistical category. In fact, before a 70-10 thrashing of overmatched Coastal Carolina last week, the Gamecocks had put up a month’s worth of troubling offensive numbers.
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And, all of that being said, I can’t imagine why anybody would pick Clemson to win this game. I understand the notion the Tigers could win. There’s no question of that, but expecting it? How can you expect Clemson to win Saturday night in Williams-Brice Stadium against a healthy Connor Shaw when it couldn’t win on its home field last year against Dylan Thompson?
For me, the Tigers have the look and feel of the Georgia teams of the 1990s and 2000s that just couldn’t beat Florida regardless of the circumstances. After watching that happen so many times in a row, I vowed not to pick the Bulldogs until they proved they could actually beat the Gators. Clemson is now officially in “Prove It” mode.
Larry Williams, who covers Clemson for TigersIllustrated.com and is an old friend of mine, described it perfectly recently I think. Williams equated the Clemson offense to a professional golfer who plays great on Thursday and Friday when the pace on the course is fast and everything is rolling right along, but can’t maintain it on Sunday when things don’t follow a smooth pattern.
South Carolina has thrived the last four seasons on providing as many roadblocks as possible for the Tigers offense, and it will do it again on Saturday.
Prediction: South Carolina 30, Clemson 28
David Cloninger's take on the game
There are just so many factors to consider.
Nobody wins five straight in this rivalry. At least, nobody has since Clemson won seven straight from 1934-40. There have been a lot of four-game streaks, but not five. Then again, South Carolina hasn’t been shy about making history these last four years.
Connor Shaw has never lost a game he’s started at Williams-Brice Stadium and has won more games than any USC quarterback.
Tajh Boyd is the greatest quarterback that Clemson has ever had but has yet to win a rivalry game, which is a heck of a legacy to be stapled to one’s hindparts throughout eternity. Even with all of his records and wins, he may still be regarded as just “one of the best” instead of “the best” if he doesn’t win Saturday.
USC’s pass rush, which has been so instrumental in the last four wins over Clemson, has not been great this season. Jadeveon Clowney has not been a factor, and the Gamecocks have been masters of the “almost-sack.” Boyd has also lost the extra weight that he struggled to keep off the last two years, and has proven adept at either firing quick-strike passes or rolling out to find a receiver curling back to help him.
The Gamecocks have the power to run the ball and keep Boyd off the field, but will they? Steve Spurrier likes to pass, and if Clemson takes an early lead, as it has in three of the past four years, he might try to even that score up right away.
That could backfire.
So many factors. So, so many.
But what I can’t get over is that for the first time maybe ever in the 111-game history of this rivalry, USC expects to win this game. It’s like the baseball series, and how the Gamecocks have dominated it over the past four seasons – USC is confident, cocky and loose, while the slightest bit of pressure turns Clemson into rigid, joyless statues. At home, saying farewell to one of the gutsiest players they have ever had, and also to one of the most frighteningly talented, the Gamecocks expect to, and will, win.
Prediction: South Carolina 28, Clemson 20