David Cloninger

Five story lines for USC vs. Clemson

What to watch in the 114th meeting between the Gamecocks and Tigers:

1. Pressure-Packed

South Carolina got its sixth win to attain bowl eligibility last week and definitely wants to win this game, but if it loses, it was supposed to. The ax is hanging over Clemson’s head. If the Tigers lose this one, they’re likely out of the College Football Playoff – and they’ll have to hear until doomsday how they let this season get away to Will Muschamp.

2. Tigers’ Last Run

This will be the last time to touch Howard’s Rock and run down the hill at Memorial Stadium for Clemson’s seniors – and a few juniors, such as quarterback Deshaun Watson. The Gamecocks haven’t spoiled many home-game finales for Tigers seniors, but they have done it some (10 times).

3. In the Trenches

The Gamecocks’ offensive line had a masterful game last week (against an FCS opponent) and there’s at least the hope it can do it again. Clemson allows 129.3 rushing yards per game and is one of the best teams in the country at getting to the quarterback, so running the ball seems to be USC’s best bet.

4. Hurst sits on ready

Clemson’s only loss this season came to Pitt, which had a power running back and ran its tight ends in space to challenge the Tigers’ linebackers in pass coverage. Hayden Hurst could have a career game if the Gamecocks decide to exploit that weakness again.

5. USC Vindication

Only two first-year USC coaches in the past 50 years won their first rivalry game, and only one did it on the road. That last one (Brad Scott) is now wearing orange as a part of Clemson’s athletic department. If Muschamp could get it done with that guy watching, well, it would soothe a few old wounds.

Game info

▪  Who: South Carolina (6-5) vs. Clemson (10-1)

▪  When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

▪  Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson

▪  TV: ESPN

▪  Radio: 107.5 FM and 93.1 FM

▪  Weather: Mostly clear. Temperatures in upper 40s at kickoff and low 40s by end of game

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