South Carolina at Clemson: The Only Game That Matters

James Gray IICorrespondent INovember 28, 2008

In a season where one team was projected to win their conference and other was expected to compete for a title shot of their own, both were denied before the season could even shape up. 

Clemson who opened the season as the No. 9 ranked team in the nation fell in the opening game to the Crimson Tide and would go on a three game skid after they won three easy games. Now it is a must win against the Gamecocks to earn a bowl berth. 

South Carolina on the other hand was upset in week two by Vanderbilt and was unable to pull off the Georgia upset at home falling 14-7. Both teams look to end the season on a strong boat as South Carolina has won six of their last eight while Clemson won on the road against Virginia in a must win game for the Tigers.

This season we have seen the unexpected from both schools. The untimely removal of Tommy Bowden mid way through the season shook up the Palmetto state as Spurrier has had analyst and fans talking about the constant switching of quarterbacks Stephen Garcia and Chris Smelley. Either way it is safe to say both teams have under achieved their preseason expectations but, all that can be erased or forgotten with a win tomorrow. 

In the past two years neither team has been able to protect their house as the visiting team has left with a victory.The last time these two teams met Clemson kicker Mark Buchholz kicked a 35-yard field goal as time expired, lifting No. 21 Clemson to a 23-21 win at South Carolina on Nov. 24, 2007. 

For the second year in a row, Clemson opened up a double-digit lead at the half, only to see Carolina rally again to take the lead. Blake Mitchell's third touchdown pass of the game gave Carolina a 21-20 lead with nine minutes remaining after USC trailed 17-7 at halftime. On paper Clemson won the statistical battle, outgaining the Gamecocks 443-364 including 214 yards on the ground, as they controlled the clock for 38:37. 

Who can forget about the last time these two squared off at Death Valley? South Carolina was able to erase a 28-14 second-half deficit upsetting the 24th ranked Tigers in front of a stunned crowd that watched Jad Dean pull a 39-yard field goal wide left.  If the last two years games are any indication of how this year’s battle will go, we should be in for a good one folks. 

Expect Clemson to feature their power and speed running backs Davis and Spiller while the Gamecocks will try to get the ball to wide receiver Kenny McKinley and Tight end Jared Cook. Offensively the Gamecocks have struggled all year whether it’s inconsistent quarterback play or the offensive line not being able to hold the defense, so expect Clemson to blitz both quarterbacks forcing them to make quick decisions. 

South Carolina, which has been held together all season by their stout defense will be facing arguable the best duo of running backs they have faced all season and will have to contain both of them if they don’t want to have a long day. 

Clemson holds the overall record at 64-37 over the Gamecocks dating all the way back to 1896. This will be 106th meeting between the two Palmetto State rivals and have played every year since 1909.