South Carolina-Clemson: Let the Comparisons Begin

James Gray IICorrespondent IOctober 3, 2008

Both teams entered the 2008 season with high hopes of being undefeated up to this point, but both are left with two L’s on the right side of their records.

Many had high hopes for the Tigers pulling off a BCS title run based on talent and an easy ACC schedule that didn’t include Virginia Tech.  Little did everybody know they would run into a brick wall in the Georgia Dome against Saban’s highly underrated Tide team.

Clemson would fall 34-10 in front of a shocked wave of orange that looked like they all had witnessed a freak accident.

The Gamecocks, on the other hand, started off the season sending NC State running back to the ACC looking for refuge after suffering a 34-0 onslaught.

  However, the Gamecocks would get upset the next week for the second straight year by the Vanderbilt Commodores, who are surprisingly 4-0. 

South Carolina would again fall the next week to Georgia 14-7; in a game that the Gamecocks kept both Moreno and Stafford in check for most of the day, but couldn't capitalize in the red zone.

This past weekend, the Tigers were stunned once again as the Terps came into Death Valley and erased a 17-6 halftime deficit to defeat the highly favored Clemson squad. 

With losses suffered by both Georgia and Florida, the door still isn’t fully closed on the Gamecocks' chances at an SEC East title, nor are hopes lost for Clemson in the ACC.

The Tigers have visits to Wake Forest, Florida State, and Boston College, while Carolina hosts LSU and Tennessee and makes trips to Ole Miss and the Swamp. 

It is pretty safe to say that both teams have been underachievers thus far but one of the only things that matters to both teams is who comes out on top on Nov. 29.  Here are a few comparisons that can be made:

Week 1: No. 9 Clemson loses to No. 24 Alabama, 34-10

Week 2: No. 24 South Carolina loses to unranked Vanderbilt, 24-17  

Week 3: Unranked South Carolina loses to No. 2 Georgia, 14-7

Week 4: No. 20 Clemson loses to unranked Maryland, 20-17          

Positional Advantages

Quarterback:  This year, Cullen Harper hasn’t looked as consistent through the air, as he has already thrown five interceptions and only three touchdowns.

Last season, Harper only threw 6 interceptions and passed for 27 touchdowns. His shaky play has made some Clemson fans curious to see what Willy Korn is all about. 

South Carolina has had plenty of quarterback issues, as they have gone through three quarterbacks after Tommy Beecher had an awful first start and Chris Smelley failed to keep the job after inconsistent performances.

Stephen Garcia received his first start and impressed many with his strong arm and running abilities, but he still has a lot to learn.  Based on experience Clemson, has the advantage with the starting quarterback for South Carolina still a question mark.

Advantage: Clemson

Running Backs:  Clemson features one of the most feared running back duos in college football with James Davis and CJ Spiller.  The pair has combined for an impressive 10 touchdowns and 678 rushing yards, in only five games.

Carolina has started three different running backs and are deep at that position with Mike Davis, Brian Maddox, Eric Baker, Bobby Wallace, and Taylor Rank all receiving touches this season.  Even with depth at the running back position; the pure athleticism and talent of Davis and Spiller is undeniable, as they are the focus of every opponent’s defense.

Advantage:  Clemson


Wide Receiver/Tight ends:  South Carolina’s star wideout Kenny McKinley has been out the last three weeks with a hamstring injury suffered against Vanderbilt.

Clemson’s senior star, Aaron Kelly, leads the Tigers in receptions but has yet to find the end zone.  With McKinley being out, Moe Brown has stepped up and led the Gamecocks with tight end Jared Cook closely behind him.

With McKinley back in the lineup, the Gamecocks have two targets that can draw double teams, and Cook’s size creates difficult matchups for the defense. 

Advantage:  South Carolina

Offensive Line:  Both teams have struggled with pass protection this season; Clemson starts two freshmen, while the Gamecocks have a mix of sophomores, juniors, and a senior.

The Clemson running game has been one of the most effective in college football, but when you have Spiller and Davis splitting carries, yards and touchdowns won’t be hard to come by.

Clemson’s offensive line is slightly better, but both have been shaky at times.

Advantage:  Clemson


Linebackers:  South Carolina senior Jasper Brinkley and junior Eric Norwood are two of the top linebackers not only in the SEC, but also in the nation.

Clemson offers a promising freshman in Brandon Maye, and junior Kavelle Connor adds experience, but the Gamecocks pair is more athletic and talented. 

Advantage:  South Carolina


Defensive Line:  Clemson junior Ricky Sapp is one of the top defensive playmakers in the ACC.  South Carolina offers plenty of youth with sophomores Ajiboye and Mathews

fitting in well next to Pepper and Lindsey. 

Clemson freshman Da’Quan Bowers looks to be a future leader of the defense, as he has already earned a starting position at defensive end.  Both sides offer youth and excitement, and both have room for improvement, mainly focusing on stopping the run game. 

Advantage:  Clemson


Secondary:  The secondary has been a strong point for the Gamecocks for years; this season juniors Emanuel Cook and Captain Munnerlyn lead the highly ranked pass defense. 

Clemson has a couple studs of their own in their secondary with junior cornerbacks Chris Chancellor and Crezdon Butler.  With Carolina’s pass defense being one of the best in the nation, the Gamecocks have the advantage in the secondary.

Advantage: South Carolina


Special Teams:  Whenever C.J. Spiller touches the ball anything, can happen; and that’s exactly why they want the ball in his hands whenever possible.

Ryan Succop is clearly the better kicker, as he was named a Draddy award semifinalist two days ago.  Clemson offers a better return team, while South Carolina has the better kicking team.

Advantage:  Push


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