South Carolina Football: What to Watch for Against Clemson

Michael WillhoftContributor IIINovember 21, 2011

South Carolina Football: What to Watch for Against Clemson

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    The final game of the regular season for the South Carolina Gamecocks still matters, despite the fact that USC won’t be playing for a spot in the SEC title game.

    Things haven’t gone according to South Carolina’s master plan this season, but the Gamecocks will definitely play Clemson—their in-state rivals—tough on Saturday.

    The matchup of Palmetto state teams has its share of story lines. Here’s what to pay attention to when you tune in for Clemson vs. South Carolina this weekend…

Alshon Jeffery

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    The junior wide receiver for South Carolina has had a relatively quiet season, all things considered. Coming off a season in which he recorded 88 receptions for a total of 1,517 yards, Jeffery hasn’t come close to equaling his production from last year.

    The thing is, it’s not his fault.

    South Carolina lost starting quarterback Stephen Garcia when he was dismissed from the team for violating team rules and lost star running back Marcus Lattimore to injury in the seventh game of the season.

    Without two major offensive components, it’s no wonder that Jeffery has seen his numbers drop this year.

    This Saturday against Clemson, watch for Jeffery to make his presence felt in what could be his last collegiate home game. Only Jeffery knows for certain if he’ll forgo his senior season to enter the NFL draft next year, but most people are expecting him to make the leap to the pros.

    On senior day in Columbia, keep your eyes on No. 1 for South Carolina—he might take this opportunity to leave his mark on the university for the last time at home.

The Crowd

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    Saturday is senior day in Columbia, and for the South Carolina senior players it’s sure to be an emotional game.

    The pregame ceremonies will play an important part in building the atmosphere in Williams-Brice Stadium; look for the crowd to play the biggest role in hyping the players up for the game at hand.

    It’ll be interesting to see how many Clemson fans are in attendance on Saturday. If the USC faithful are out in force for senior day, though, it likely won’t have an impact on the game.

    Watch the reaction of the home crowd towards the seniors as well as towards Alshon Jeffery; as I mentioned earlier, Jeffery will likely be playing his final home game in a Gamecocks jersey.

    If the crowd wants a win on senior day, it’ll be in full voice in support of the home team.

Brandon Wilds

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    Freshman running back Brandon Wilds has been a revelation in the wake of starting running back Marcus Lattimore’s season-ending injury. Hopefully for USC fans, Wilds can keep up his frenetic rushing pace.

    When Wilds was called upon to replace the Heisman Trophy hopeful Lattimore, no one expected the kind of production he’s brought to the Gamecocks running game.

    Wilds has rushed for 100-plus yards in three of his four starts since replacing Lattimore in the lineup, and has been taking some of the heat off of sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw.

    Watch for Wilds to continue his stellar running against a Clemson team reeling from a loss to an unranked opponent last weekend.

The Defense

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    The South Carolina defense has been putting up solid numbers all season. It ranks 15th in the country in points allowed, giving up only 19.4 points per game. The defensive unit will have to be up to the task of slowing the high-octane Clemson offense on Saturday.

    If past performance is an indicator of future results, the Gamecocks have nothing to worry about.

    Besides, Clemson has had some trouble scoring points of late—the Tigers put up only 17 points in their game against Georgia Tech and 13 points against NC State last weekend.

    As they have all season, the players on the USC defensive line will need to step up this weekend. Watch the front four of the Gamecocks for proof that South Carolina hasn’t given up on the season despite their failure to win the SEC East.

    Defense is all about effort, and you can be sure the South Carolina defense will put forth maximum effort on senior day in Columbia.

The Win Column

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    Ah, the all-important “W.”

    If South Carolina can pull off a victory against Clemson, the Gamecocks will have achieved a 10-win season for only the second time in school history. That’s a groundbreaking feat for a football program that was established over 118 years ago.

    South Carolina has already assured itself of back-to-back seasons of nine wins for the first time in school history, so the bar has been raised for future years.

    Watching the win column has been a pastime of all USC fans this season—the pleasant surprise has been that the number keeps climbing.