Last week’s results
No. 6 Clemson (10-1, 7-1 ACC) beat The Citadel 52-6.
South Carolina (9-2, 6-2 SEC) beat Coastal Carolina 70-10.
Can Clemson and Dabo Swinney snap the South Carolina hex?
Dabo Swinney has accomplished plenty in his five seasons as Clemson’s full-time head coach. He has 50 wins. He has an ACC title. He has won or shared three ACC Atlantic Division titles. Clemson has three consecutive 10-win seasons, the program’s longest streak since 1987-90, and has been ranked in the Top 10 for 14 consecutive weeks, the longest streak in program history.
But one nagging problem remains. Since a 31-14 win in 2008 that sealed his elevation from interim to full-time leader, Swinney is 0-4 against South Carolina. All four losses have come by double digits, with last season’s 27-17 South Carolina win Clemson’s closest margin.
The Gamecocks are currently riding their longest win streak in the series, tying their run from 1951-54; a win Saturday would be an unprecedented (for USC) fifth straight in the series.
Swinney says wins over South Carolina don’t define his legacy, but he’s well aware of the streak and badly wants to break it.
“That’s why they call it bragging rights,” he said. “We’ve got to live with this one. Everybody in the state lives with it. Everybody wants those bragging rights. They’ve been the better team. They’ve outplayed us and outcoached us. We’ve got to play to our full potential. That’s what we’ve not done, and we have to get it done.”
Swinney says his team simply must be more consistent to emerge from Columbia victorious.
“I think we’ve had a great year,” he said. “The thing for me, I want to see us play well. People don’t like it when I say that, but I’m not focused on the scoreboard. I’m more concerned with how we play. I know if we play the right way consistently, the scoreboard takes care of itself.”
Can the Tigers’ offensive line contain Jadeveon Clowney?
Clowney, South Carolina’s standout junior defensive end, was unstoppable a year ago. He had 4.5 sacks, a Memorial Stadium record, and terrorized All-ACC left tackle Brandon Thomas as well as the rest of Clemson’s offensive line.
Clowney has struggled with injuries and inconsistency: He has only two sacks through nine games after piling up 13.5 a year ago. But you’d better believe he still has Clemson’s respect.
“He’s a great player,” Swinney said. “I don’t care what the numbers say. He’s a load to handle. He is as advertised. He’s very talented. Incredibly disruptive. We have to have a plan for him.”
Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris suggested this week that his offense would use a tight end or tailback more often to help Thomas block and "chip" Clowney. Thomas has studied 2012’s film and feels like he is better prepared for another meeting.
“You study your film, your past film, so you can correct things,” he said. “I did some things well and I didn’t do some things well. Looking to this year, I’m going to look back at that film and try and correct some things.”
He also feels he has improved overall from a year ago.
“I think it’s being more physical,” he said. “Last year I don’t think I was as physical as I am now. My technique has gotten better. Those two things will help me go a long way in this game.”
Clowney moves all over the line, so stopping both he and defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles (seven sacks) will be a task for the entire offensive line, not just Thomas.
Can Clemson keep South Carolina’s offense off the field?
The best way to stop Chad Morris’ high-powered, hurry-up, no-huddle offense (averaging 42.3 points and 515.6 yards per game)? Keep it off the field. That’s exactly what South Carolina did a year ago. The Gamecocks held the ball for 39:58 and limited Clemson to 19 second-half snaps, turning a 14-10 halftime deficit into a 27-17 win.
South Carolina converted 11 of 21 third downs and frustrated the Tigers offense consistently.
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables knows his unit has to control the trenches to get the Tigers offense back on the field regularly.
“You’ve got to win at the line of scrimmage. If they’re chewing clock, that means they’re probably running the ball very effectively,” he said. “ You don’t have to chew up a whole bunch of yards to run the ball effectively. Coach (Steve) Spurrier is very patient. They win a lot of tight ballgames through the years. Not just this year. Since he’s been at South Carolina, that’s been his mode of operation.”
Time: 7 p.m. ET, Saturday
Place: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, S.C.
Radio: Clemson and South Carolina radio networks (regional).
Spread: South Carolina -5 via vegasinsider.com
*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes for this article were obtained directly by the author.