South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Clemson Tigers: Complete Game Preview

Charles BennettContributor INovember 26, 2013

South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Clemson Tigers: Complete Game Preview

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    Just like this pass, Saturday's game between South Carolina and Clemson appears to be up for grabs.
    Just like this pass, Saturday's game between South Carolina and Clemson appears to be up for grabs.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    South Carolina enters this matchup between top 10 teams riding a four-game winning streak against the Tigers.

    This is the 111th renewal of the series, and a victory would give the Gamecocks an unprecedented fifth consecutive triumph over their archrival.

    The game is critical to Clemson, not only to avoid the stigma of losing five straight to its rival, but also because the Tigers have an outside shot of playing in the national championship game.

    That shot only remains if the Tigers can beat the Gamecocks.

     

    What: No. 6 Clemson (10-1) vs. No. 10 South Carolina (9-2)

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday

    Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, S.C.

    Watch: ESPN

    Series: Clemson leads 65-41-4

     

Keys to Victory for Clemson

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    Clemson's offensive line needs to give quarterback Tajh Boyd plenty of time to throw.
    Clemson's offensive line needs to give quarterback Tajh Boyd plenty of time to throw.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Clemson's No. 1 objective on Saturday should be to protect quarterback Tajh Boyd.

    If the Tigers can give Boyd time to throw, Clemson's chances of beating the Gamecocks improve dramatically.

    There's every reason to believe Clemson's line can get the job done. They're an improved unit from last year, and although South Carolina's defensive line remains formidable, it's not as dominant as it was last year.

    Clemson's offensive line versus South Carolina's defensive line looms as perhaps the most important matchup in the game.

     

Keys to Victory for South Carolina

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    South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney (No. 7) needs to back up his summer smack talk about Tajh Boyd and the Tigers.
    South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney (No. 7) needs to back up his summer smack talk about Tajh Boyd and the Tigers.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    South Carolina's defense has not been as dominant as it was a year ago and has some major questions to answer against the Tigers.

    Can the Gamecocks keep the pressure on Tajh Boyd? And can the secondary avoid giving up too many big plays?

    It seems South Carolina falls victim to at least one big pass play per game.

    The offense appears primed, rested and ready for another solid performance. Coach Steve Spurrier needs to be at his play-calling best.

Players to Watch for Clemson

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    Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd holds the key for the Tigers on Saturday.
    Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd holds the key for the Tigers on Saturday.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    All eyes are on quarterback Tajh Boyd.

    The Tigers simply can't win this game without a big performance from Boyd, who has been rendered a non-factor in the last two meetings.

    Wide receiver Sammy Watkins is one of the best in the nation.

    Clemson's defensive front, led by defensive end Vic Beasley (10 sacks), will give the South Carolina offensive line all it can handle.

     

Players to Watch for South Carolina

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    If South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw runs with his usual quickness, it will give the Gamecocks a big boost.
    If South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw runs with his usual quickness, it will give the Gamecocks a big boost.Peter Aiken/Getty Images

    South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw looked like he had regained his old quickness in last week's game against Coastal, and if so, that's a huge factor for the Gamecocks.

    Shaw has been nursing a sprained knee, and anything less than full speed against a team the caliber of Clemson won't do.

    Tailback Mike Davis, who sat out last week, also looms a key player for the Gamecocks.

    Wide receiver Bruce Ellington always seems to play big against the Tigers.

     

What They're Saying

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    South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier says the Gamecocks are almost completely healthy for Saturday's game.
    South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier says the Gamecocks are almost completely healthy for Saturday's game.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier says the Gamecocks will need to be at their best on Saturday against Clemson.

    Meanwhile, at Clemson, quarterback Tajh Boyd says the Tigers are peaking at the right time.

     

Prediction

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    The Gamecocks have a chance to make it five in a row against Clemson.
    The Gamecocks have a chance to make it five in a row against Clemson.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    South Carolina has beaten Clemson each of the last four years because the Gamecocks have whipped the Tigers up front on the line of scrimmage.

    This year, Clemson seems to have closed the gap a bit, if not entirely, on both lines of scrimmage.

    This should be the closest game in recent years and certainly rates as Clemson's best shot in some time.

    However, the home-field advantage may be enough to pull the Gamecocks through.

    South Carolina 34, Clemson 31.