South Carolina would have to pull a major upset to beat No. 2 Clemson on Saturday. The Gamecocks opened as a 25-point underdog and that number climbed to 26 early in the week.
USC likely needs to be at its highest emotional peak to climb a mountain that high, and that could be the Gamecocks undoing in the end.
“A lot of people get really emotional for this game but that’s one thing we have to control — the emotions,” South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley said.
Take for example the Gamecocks defenders who are charged with stopping Clemson running back Travis Etienne, an explosive but patient runner who will make South Carolina (6-4) pay if its players get out of position.
“The biggest thing we have to do is hold our gaps and make him commit,” linebacker T.J. Brunson said. “You don’t want to get overly emotional in any game. Too much emotion will make mistakes because you’re thinking too much about playing how you feel instead of being smart.”
That’s the delicate balance South Carolina has to find Saturday if it’s going to have any chance to snap the Tigers’ four-game winning streak.
“You have to keep your composure,” Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp said. “It’s going to be emotional. Any time you have a familiarity with your opponent, you have to keep your composure. We had a couple situations last year (where) we lost our composure in a couple critical situations to keep drives alive and in offsetting penalties we retaliated to a situation we shouldn’t have. At the end of the day, you have to keep your composure and not hurt your football team.”
The last time South Carolina played Clemson (11-0) in Memorial Stadium, Gamecocks and Tigers players got into a shoving match on the field during pregame warmups.
“Coach has been preaching composure all week,” Brunson said. “Our biggest thing especially with these young guys is keeping these guys composed. It’s easy for a game like this to get out of hand because guys are too emotional and not doing their job. If you get too emotional in these games you are more likely to make more mistakes. He’s just been talking about the details and finishing plays on both sides of the ball.”