It may not be a conference matchup, but there is sure to be plenty of bad blood when No. 12 South Carolina of the SEC hosts No. 17 Clemson of the ACC on Saturday night. Both teams are already locked into their positions in their respective conferences, but they will want to close out the regular season victorious.
Clemson looked as if it might be well on its way to an undefeated regular season, but the Tigers have sputtered down the stretch with losses to Georgia Tech and NC State. Still, the Tigers will be the Atlantic Division's representative in the ACC Championship Game against either Virginia Tech or Virginia.
South Carolina finished a game behind Georgia in the SEC East, but will certainly want to win in order to possibly position itself for a BCS at-large bid. The Gamecocks have battled through injuries, including a season-ending one to star running back Marcus Lattimore, but they have persevered.
No matter how ineffectual this game will be with regards to the standings, this should be an excellent game between two BCS-caliber teams.
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C.
When: Saturday, Nov. 26 at 7:45 p.m. EDT
Listen: WCCP 104.9 FM (Clemson) and 92.9 WZLA 92.9 FM (South Carolina)
Betting Line: South Carolina (-4.5)
Who Might Not Play for Clemson: OL Brandon Thomas
Which team will win this game?
When Clemson travels to take on South Carolina on Saturday, it may be without the services of starting left tackle Brandon Thomas. The red-shirt sophomore suffered a leg injury against NC State last week and is considered questionable to play against the Gamecocks.
Thomas stepped into a starting role this season after the graduation of former left tackle Chris Hairston, who now plays for the NFL's Buffalo Bills. Thomas still may play, but if he doesn't, then the Tigers could have some issues when it comes to protecting quarterback Tajh Boyd.
Who Might Not Play for South Carolina: LB Quin Smith
Junior linebacker Quin Smith is questionable to play for South Carolina against Clemson on Saturday. Smith is nursing a back injury that kept him out against the Citadel last week. Smith assumed the role of starting Will linebacker for the Gamecocks this season and is a big part of their defense.
A speedy linebacker is a must in order to shadow mobile Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd. Smith provides that type of speed as an under-sized linebacker, so his absence would likely be sorely missed in trying to slow down the Tigers' attack.
BCS/Top 25 Implications
Both South Carolina and Clemson are on the edge of BCS contention, but this particular game may not have much effect on their statuses. Clemson is already locked into the ACC Championship Game, so their best bet at a BCS bowl berth is likely to win the conference.
Winning the conference isn't an option for South Carolina, as they were nipped by Georgia in the SEC standings. A win over Clemson would make them 10-2, but a BCS at-large bid would be tough to garner with so many other at-large options around them. Nevertheless, the Gamecocks need to win in order for it to even be a possibility.
What They're Saying
One particular wrinkle that has given 9-2 Clemson some issues this season is the zone read. The Tigers' defense has been susceptible against running quarterbacks, and that could be a major issue against South Carolina and signal caller Connor Shaw, according to Travis Sawchik of the Charleston Post & Courier.
They’re a zone-read team, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. They’ll throw the power in there and run some draws, but they run the zone-read from a hundred different formations. They are going to make you play disciplined, fundamental football.
Their quarterback (Connor Shaw) is a real weapon.
Clemson Player to Watch: QB Tajh Boyd
Very much in the Heisman Trophy hunt until a couple weeks ago, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd has been a major surprise and one of the main reasons for the Tigers' success this season. Quite simply, Boyd has been ordinary in Clemson's two losses and largely fantastic in their nine victories.
With that in mind, Boyd's play will have much to do with whether the Tigers win or lose on Saturday. His overall numbers of 3,255 passing yards and 27 touchdowns are spectacular, so South Carolina's focus will certainly have to be attempting to befuddle Boyd in some way.
South Carolina Player to Watch: WR Alshon Jeffery
Would a win over Clemson earn South Carolina a BCS at-large bid?
South Carolina's quarterback situation has been a mess this season. Stephen Garcia was dismissed from the team, and Connor Shaw has since taken over the starting role. While Shaw has done a nice job, he leans more toward being a running quarterback than anything.
Because of the volatility of the Gamecocks quarterback position, stud wide receiver Alshon Jeffery has not had as big of a season as expected. Jeffery has just 585 yards receiving and six touchdowns, but South Carolina relies mostly on the run. The Tigers can't sleep on Jeffery, though, because he can make hug plays if Shaw gets him the ball.
Key Matchup: Connor Shaw vs. Clemson Defense
As previously mentioned, the Clemson defense has had major problems against mobile quarterbacks this season. Twice, they have given up over 100 yards rushing to opposing quarterbacks, and they have been beaten in that regard on plenty of other occasions as well.
South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw has proven to be one of the nation's better quarterbacks in terms of running the ball, as he has scored a rushing touchdown in four straight games and has 178 yards on the ground over his past two contests. If the Tigers can't figure out the zone read, then it could be another long day for the Clemson defense.
South Carolina 24, Clemson 20