Josh Kendall

Five burning questions for South Carolina vs. Clemson

What Clemson’s Dabo Swinney said about South Carolina’s strengths

Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney previews the 2018 rivalry game against South Carolina.
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Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney previews the 2018 rivalry game against South Carolina.

South Carolina (6-4) plays No. 2 Clemson (11-0) on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Death Valley. Here are five burning questions that will help determine the outcome of the game:

Can South Carolina stop the streak?

With one more win, Clemson will match the five-game winning streak that South Carolina was on from 2009-2013. That streak was incredibly important for the psyche of Gamecocks fans, none of whom relish seeing the Tigers match it so soon. If the Tigers win again, it would be their second-longest winning streak in this rivalry. Clemson won seven straight from 1934-1940.

Can the Gamecocks stop Clemson’s running game?

The Tigers have outgained South Carolina on the ground by an average of 223.8 yards to 109 yards during their four-game winning streak. During that stretch, the Gamecocks have never rushed for more than 181 yards and Clemson has never rushed for fewer than 184. This year, the Tigers have two running backs who are in the top eight in the country in yards per carry – starter Travis Etienne (8.51 ypc) and backup Lyn-J Dixon (10.49 ypc). Meanwhile, South Carolina ranks 93rd in the nation in rushing defense.

Will South Carolina’s offense stay hot?

South Carolina has scored 76 points in the first half of the last three games. That’s more first half points than the Gamecocks had scored in the previous six games combined. Starting fast has been a particular problem against the Tigers during this four-game losing streak. Clemson has outscored South Carolina 90-13 in the last four first halves. “I think we’re much better offensively than we’ve been the last two years,” Gamecocks head coach Will Msuchamp said. “We’ve made some strides there. We’ve been very good starting games offensively here, especially recently. It’s no question it’s important in any road game to get off to a good start. They play very well from ahead and that’s the case most of the year for them. There’s no question getting out of the gates fast is important.”

Will the Gamecocks keep their cool?

The last trip to Death Valley included a pregame shoving match, a 56-7 drubbing and postgame accusations of a racial slur used by a Clemson player during the game. Muschamp has emphasized to his team that a loss like that can’t ever happen again while also cautioning his players not to let their emotions get the better of them. That could be a tough tightrope to walk in a night game in what has become one of the country’s toughest places to play in recent years.

Can USC snap the ranked teams losing streak?

This would be an ideal, but tough, time to do it. South Carolina has lost nine straight games to ranked teams and is 1-10 overall against ranked teams under Will Muschamp. No one reasonable will hold a loss Saturday against Muschamp but a 10-game losing streak against ranked teams is the kind of thing that gets mentioned a lot in an offseason.

Who: Clemson (11-0) vs. South Carolina (6-4)

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Clemson Memorial Stadium (81,500)

Series history: Clemson leads the series 69–42–4. South Carolina has lost four in a row after winning five in a row.

TV: ESPN (Steve Levy, play-by-play; Brian Griese, analysis; Todd McShay, sideline)

Radio: 107.5 FM (Todd Ellis, play-by-play; Tommy Suggs, analysis; Langston Moore, sideline) ... See all the radio affiliates around the state here.

Satellite radio: Sirius 119/XM 381

Line: Clemson by 26 1/2

Weather: Partly cloudy, with a low around 44. A 13 percent chance of rain. Around 50 degrees at kickoff, 47 at the end of the game.

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