South Carolina’s shot at six rests on the five men up front on its offense.
The Gamecocks can beat Clemson today and get a sixth straight victory in the series if quarterback Dylan Thompson is clean and comfortable throughout the day.
The Tigers have the nation’s No. 1 defense, allowing 252.4 yards per game, and it starts with the four seniors on the defensive line. Clemson is first in tackles-for-loss (9.91 per game) and fifth in sacks (3.55 per game) in the country.
“The d-line is one of the best in the country,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “They’re all over the place. They don’t just line up and say, ‘We’re coming from right here.’ They slant and move.”
The last team South Carolina faced that moved its defensive linemen around as effectively as Clemson were the Missouri Tigers, who held the Gamecocks to a season-low 20 points and 338 yards in a 21-20 loss. The Tigers sacked Thompson four times and hurried him four more times.
“When you have those real good pass rushers, a lot of guys don’t block them very well,” Spurrier said. “So you’ve got to just hope you don’t get in a whole bunch of third-and-10s, third-and-15s. That would be the best thing, right there. If you have to give your tackles or guards a little help occasionally, you need to do that. But hopefully, don’t get yourself in third-and-long a lot, if you can help it.”
That might suggest sticking to the running game, but that’s no easy feat either. Clemson is third in the nation in yards allowed per rush (2.85).
“We've got to mix it up, throw a little here, run a little there, try not to let them know exactly what we're doing,” Spurrier said. “They're hard to run against, and they're hard to throw against, too. So, we've got to be sharp. They're hard to pass block against, also. So, we can't say we're going to try and go in there and throw 40 to 50 passes.”
Spurrier has figured out the Clemson defense during this five-game winning streak, averaging 31 points per game, but this is the best Tiger defense he has faced. The Gamecocks won’t hit their scoring average of 35 points per game Saturday, but it won’t matter without Clemson freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson at full strength.
South Carolina 19, Clemson 17