CLEMSON – Many of the same faces return in tomorrow’s highly anticipated rivalry game but as Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said:
“It’s not fair to compare last year’s offense to this year’s offense. .. these are different teams.”
I think there are three critical differences entering this game when examining strength vs. strength: the Clemson offense vs. the South Carolina defense
*The biggest change is Tajh Boyd is now a dual-threat quarterback. This gives the Clemson offense and entirely new dimension, and we’ve seen how effective offenses are the last decade in college football when you have a double-threat quarterback. Boyd’s legs should create some more hesitancy in the vaunted South Carolina pass rush, they should help Clemson convert some short-yardage situations and they should help improve Clemson’s pathetic rushing totals during the losing streak: a combined 179 rushing yards in last three rivalry games.
*The Tigers are healthy. In the last three years of the rivalry Clemson has entered with its most significant offensive skill player – and last year it’s left tackle, top wideout and running back – banged up. This year health will not be an excuse as the Tigers in near perfect health for a Week 12 matchup. Clemson was without its left tackle last year and in part because of it Clemson allowed 11 sacks of its last two games. This year it is S.C. that enters with limping or injured stars.
*The home field. Home-field is always important in the emotional game of college football and South Carolina DC Lorenzo Ward thinks it had an effect on the game’s tempo last year. I expect the tempo to increase this year. This could also be the loudest any of us have heard the valley.
*If Clowney is a reasonable facsimile to a healthy version of himself and he goes all Aldon Smith on Brandon Thomas, it could be a long night for the Clemson offense. But I think there’s a few things working in Clemson’s factor: Boyd’s legs slowing the rush, a healthy, cohesive Clemson OL and Clemson has options in the quick passing game.
*South Carolina’s OL has been porous against good pass rushes and Connor Shaw is not 100 percent. There could be an opportunity for Vic Beasley to make some impact plays.
*One big concern for Clemson is its secondary. Both starting corners are out and Shaw has been an efficient thrower, who can extend plays and make accurate throws. South Carolina is going to score points through the passing game
… I just think the Clemson offense will score more often and proved against Florida State it can move the ball against an elite defense.
CLEMSON 37, SOUTH CAROLINA 31
CREATE A ‘BIG FRIDAY?’
I’m not suggesting Clemson and South Carolina bring back “Big Thursday.” I think many of us want to enjoy family and friends on Thursday. But perhaps moving the game to Friday make some sense.
As I wrote about on Thursday, the in-state rivalry is on the rise.
Population, recruiting and commitment trends all suggest this game will be played for higher stakes more often, SC and Clemson will be ranked more often when they meet.
But the game is going to get lost, nationally, if its continued to be played on Saturday. For instance, more eyes figure to be on No. 1 Notre Dame vs. Southern Cal on Saturday night.
So why not move the game to Friday as Yahoo!’s Dan Wetzel suggested today?
It could help further raise the profile and exposure of a rivalry that should have a broader reach.
DOES THE SC GAME DEFINE THE SEASON?
Yes and No.
Even if Clemson loses tomorrow, it’s still won 10 games for the second straight year for the first time since 1990, it still has had a successful season, a good season. But for Clemson to be remembered for having a great year, it has to win against S.C. and win the bowl game.
Does a loss ruin the season?
“I think that is sad way to think about things,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. “People that think that have no appreciation for winning or how hard it is to win. It’s hard to win 10 ball games.
“Yeah, we’d be incredibly disappointed if we lost this game, you’re dang right. You live with it all year. Everybody lives with it, coaches, players and fans. But if we lost all those games and we were 0-11 and we won this game it would be a great year? Nobody is happy unless you win them all. That’s our objective.”
South Carolina at Clemson (-4)
Florida at Florida State (-7.5)
Georgia Tech vs. Georgia (-14)
Notre Dame (-5.5) at Southern Cal
Michigan at Ohio State (-4)
Auburn at Alabama (-34)
Oklahoma (-7) at Oklahoma State
Clemson picks, straight up, career: 38-13
Clemson picks this season: 10-1
Clemson picks, vs. spread, career: 22-27-1
This year vs. spread: 5-5
Last week vs. spread 2-3
Season vs. spread 27-38-2
Career vs. spread 119-116-4