1. Yardage differential
Here’s the clearest sign of how much better the Gamecocks have been on both sides of the football. The USC offense has gained 1,892 yards in the past five meetings, an average of 378 yards per game. The USC defense has held a high-powered Clemson offense to 1,344 yards, an average of 269 per game. Is it any wonder the Gamecocks have outscored the Tigers 155-71, an average of 31-14?
South Carolina’s best players stepped up in a big way during the five wins, including Stephen Garcia, Alshon Jeffery, Antonio Allen, Connor Shaw, Jadeveon Clowney and Bruce Ellington. Clemson’s stars never seemed to gain any sort of traction, including C.J. Spiller, Kyle Parker, Da’Quan Bowers, Tajh Boyd, and Sammy Watkins. The Gamecocks found ways to slow them down, for the large part.
3. Steve Spurrier
Sure, he’s widely known as being one of the top coaches in college football history, but he also has a way of driving some coaches and teams crazy with his verbal jabs. Count Dabo Swinney and Clemson among them. Trading retorts never seems to work against Spurrier, especially when he has the upper hand. He went 1-2 against Tommy Bowden and lost his first matchup with Swinney before his comments began to take residence inside the Tigers’ psyche.
It’s hard to beat your rival, especially one that’s a good team, when you continually give up the football. In the past five games against USC, the Tigers have thrown eight interceptions and lost seven fumbles, including three of each in the 2013 loss. The Gamecocks, on the other hand, have thrown two interceptions and lost one fumble over the same stretch.
South Carolina’s teams over the years never seemed to think they could beat Clemson. From 1976 to 2008, the Gamecocks posted an 8-24-1 record against the Tigers and had four four-game losing streaks. USC’s 34-17 win against No. 15 Clemson in 2009 jump-started the program, especially since it coincided with recruiting efforts that landed the Gamecocks a string of the state’s best players. Now Clemson looks less than confident each season about beating the Gamecocks.