The South Carolina football team comes into Saturday’s Palmetto Bowl as a large underdog. If the Gamecocks want to pull the upset, these facets could be crucial.
With how South Carolina and how Clemson play, a slower-paced game is a better breeding ground for an upset. That’s usually the case, and it fits the Gamecocks’ style more than the Tigers. Against Clemson’s defense, touchdowns will be at a premium, so anything that can keep possessions down allows for a more volatile outcome.
Keep Bentley upright
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It would be lovely for South Carolina if the running game could consistently keep the chains moving and the clock rolling. But the Tigers defensive front is beastly, and USC has had trouble in spots with those sorts of fronts. That means more on Bentley’s shoulders, and that means protecting him (both with the line and quick passes, if possible) in a way the team wasn’t able to do against Texas A&M.
To pull an upset, the Gamecocks are probably going to need to take a few shots, and more than a few will be the kind of fades and streaks that ask a wide receiver to go up and snatch a contested balls. Clemson’s secondary hasn’t been its strongest point, and USC’s big receivers could have some chances.
Force some turnovers
The Tigers have had moments where they get turnover prone, and South Carolina might need some of that. Those takeaways not only get Clemson’s offense off the field, but often are big for USC in terms of setting up the offense. South Carolina’s large-scale turnover edge has slipped in recent weeks, and against Kelly Bryant, rediscovering that would boost upset chances.
Make those tackles
This is in two phases. The first is that even though the Tigers offense hasn’t been highly explosive, tailbacks Tavien Feaster and Travis Etienne are both highly capable of breaking big runs. Miss one and they could get 50 more yards any given carry. The second phase is that the Tigers are expert at moving methodically downfield, so tackles that keep a possible 4-yard gain to 2, or 6-yard gain to 3 become even more important.