South Carolina vs. Clemson: 5 Keys To a Gamecock State Championship

Alex Roberts@@alexCoAbassCorrespondent INovember 22, 2010

South Carolina vs. Clemson: 5 Keys To a Gamecock State Championship

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    COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 28:  Patrick DiMarco #47 of the South Carolina Gamecocks fights off the tackle of Kavell Conner #33 of the Clemson Tigers at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 28, 2009 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty I
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Ahhh...the annual rivalry between the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Clemson Tigers—one of the most heated and underrated rivalries in college football.

    These two teams don't like each other very much. 

    Forget records, rankings and talent. This game is always strange and always exciting for people in the state of South Carolina.

    On the line for Carolina? A nine-win season, something rarely done at the university, and momentum heading into the historic SEC Championship Game.

    On the line for Clemson? A better bowl bid, bragging rights and the ability to say, "Oh yeah? Well, you still can't beat us!"

Matchup Chart

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    AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 18:  Da'Quan Bowers #93 of the Clemson Tigers against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
    Position South Carolina Advantage Even Clemson Advantage
    Quarterback X
       
    Running Backs/Fullbacks X
     
    Wide Receivers X

     
    Offensive Line
    X

    Defensive Line
    X

    Linebackers
    X
     
    Defensive Backs

    X
    Special Teams X
     

    Coaching X


    Steve Spurrier stated that Clemson may have the best defense that the team has faced all year. While it may be a stretch to call it the best, it is certainly up there with Alabama's and Auburn's.

Key No. 1: Find Ways to Move the Ball

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    COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 06:  The defense of the Arkansas Razorbacks watch as Alshon Jeffery #1 of the South Carolina Gamecocks makes a catch during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 6, 2010 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter L
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    South Carolina's offense is extremely balanced, and it will take a focused effort to win the game. The feeling here is that Marcus Lattimore cannot be the only weapon used against Clemson, even though Clemson is ranked 38th in the country against the run.

    Stephen Garcia and Alshon Jeffery will have to be factors, and using Ace Sanders would be a great equalizer against the solid linebackers and defensive backs of Clemson. Clemson boasts the 21st-ranked passing defense and can cause some turnovers.

Key No. 2: Pressure Kyle Parker

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    AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 25:  Cliff Matthews #83 of the South Carolina Gamecocks against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 25, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Look, as much as coach Dabo Swinney wants to make it seem like Kyle Parker is a big-time college quarterback, he just is not. In fact, he is easily the worst Clemson quarterback Spurrier has had to coach against.

    Clemson's offensive line has been up and down as well...much like Carolina's. Carolina's defensive unit is second in the country in sacks.

    If Parker gets frustrated early, South Carolina could roll.

Key No. 3: Avoid the Special Teams Error

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    ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Kicker Spencer Lanning #34 of the South Carolina Gamecocks against the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on September 12, 2009 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    If it comes down to special teams, specifically the kicking game, who do you trust: Spencer Lanning, one of the best in the SEC, or Jimmy Newman, one of the most awful kickers in the country? 

    Exactly.

    Clemson does have some decent returners and generally good coverage. If South Carolina avoids any fumbles on returns and does not allow any big returns, the field position battle could sway South Carolina's way, especially when the Tigers don't have an accurate kicker.

    The field gets a whole lot longer when your kicker is only automatic from about 20 yards.

Key No. 4: Remember, the Most Important Game Is the Next One

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    COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 06:  Head coach Steve Spurrier of the South Carolina Gamecocks cheers on his team during warm ups before the start of their game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 6, 2010 in Columbia, South Carol
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    I don't mean Auburn either.

    Clemson is the next game, and the Gamecocks need to prepare and play like it.

    Regardless of what happens, this feels a bit like deja vu. Last year, the roles were reversed. Clemson was on the way to an ACC Championship Game, and the Clemson game WAS Carolina's season. 

    This year, this is Clemson's biggest game. They win this and the season feels like a success.

    South Carolina's biggest game is next week. However, in a year that has quickly become "the South Carolina History Train 2010," this game has significant meaning...a rare two-game win streak against the in-state rivals.

Key No. 5: There Is No Place Like Home...But Better Make Yourself at Home

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    CLEMSON, SC - NOVEMBER 12:  Fans fill 'Death Valley' to watch a game between the Clemson Tigers and the Florida State Seminoles on November 12, 2005 at Clemson Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    South Carolina has struggled on the road. Even though there will be more Carolina fans at this road game than the usual road trip, there will still be a sea of orange.

    Why is the home field advantage so important to South Carolina?

    It is easy: focus. The team gets easily distracted on the road. Memorial Stadium in Death Valley can get extremely loud, and if South Carolina can't find a way to focus and execute, the game could get ugly.

Prediction and Final Thoughts

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    GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 13:  Stephen Garcia #5 of the South Carolina Gamecocks waves to fans after winning a game against the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Gainesville, Florida. The Gamecocks beat the Gators 36-14.
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    I do not disrespect Clemson as a program. As a Carolina fan, they are the essential villain that every team needs...and with the premium placed on in-state recruits, this is an important game. We need them, and they need us.

    This year, the talent is heavily skewed toward South Carolina. This game will be very close and has the makings of a big, emotional game for Clemson and a meaningless end of season game for Carolina.

    Only it isn't. It never is. Spurrier will have the team ready to play, and it will be close.

    Carolina should pull out this victory.

    South Carolina wins, 28-17.

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