1. HOME ATMOSPHERE
It has been a while since South Carolina and Clemson met strictly for pride, or to send the winner to a bowl game. Both programs have reached elite status, and each has big games on deck. The Tigers may be headed to the Orange Bowl, win or lose Saturday. The Gamecocks are in the mix for several bowls, one of them BCS, And, USC could win the SEC East with some help from Texas A&M. Williams-Brice should be rockin.’
2. WHO’S IT GONNA BE?
USC has won the past two rivalry games with a strange formula. The backup quarterback, backup running back and point guard from the basketball team have all played huge roles. This year, there should be nothing to stop starting QB Connor Shaw, starting RB Mike Davis or WR (and PG) Bruce Ellington from playing in one more game. But a backup somewhere that will make an impact.
3. FASHION PLATE
How will Clemson coach Dabo Swinney dress for the big game, which should be rather chilly? Will he go with the sensible sweatshirt? The varsity letter jacket, complete with Tiger paw logo on the left chest? Perhaps some dashing orange gloves or a daring hand-knit scarf? The man wins games, but dresses like a Wal-Mart greeter.
4. ADD IT UP
Swinney faces history – no Clemson coach has ever lost five straight to USC, although the greatest Clemson coach, Frank Howard, did drop four straight from 1951-54. Meanwhile, Steve Spurrier is aiming for his sixth win (at USC) over Clemson, which is only less than USC’s former winningest coach, Rex Enright. Enright had eight rivalry wins over two coaching stints.
5. SIGNALS CALLED
Shaw and Clemson QB Tajh Boyd are facing pressure trying to cement their legacies. Boyd is, no question, the best quarterback ever at Clemson, but he still does not have a rivalry win. Shaw has that and is the winningest quarterback at USC, but he would hate to see his golden 16-0 home record tarnished with a loss to the school’s biggest rival.