Game Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN
- 6-5 record
- 85th F+ ranking
- Key players: RB Rico Dowdle, QB Jake Bentley, linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams, defensive end Darius English.
- 10-1 record
- 4th F+ ranking
- Key players: QB Deshaun Watson, receiver Mike Williams, tight end Jordan Legget, linebacker Ben Boulware, defensive tackle Christian Wilkins
The Gamecocks travel to Death Valley Saturday night to take on the Clemson Tigers. Clemson is on the cusp of making the playoff while South Carolina has had a strong month to make this game far more enticing than many thought at the beginning of the season.
South Carolina has won four of its last five games, including a win over ranked Tennessee. While the offense has slowly improved over the course of the season thanks to quarterback Jake Bentley and running back Rico Dowdle, it’s the defense that has steadily improved allowing 5.44 yards per play.
Darius English has 11.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks, and has become a disruptive force along the trenches. Three different Gamecocks have three interceptions. For the season, South Carolina has a +10 turnover margin, and are middle of the pack in the conference committing five penalties per game. Will Muschamp’s team has not been beating itself.
That still may not be enough to beat their rivals on the road. Despite South Carolina’s 52nd-ranked passing defense, according to S&P+, they will be tested against Deshaun Watson and his elite fleet of receivers. The Tigers have averaged 333 yards throwing per game this season which is just one reason the Tigers are currently 24-point favorites.
South Carolina will must get pressure from English and his teammates in order to disrupt Watson’s timing, but then also take away Clemson’s rushing abilities. The South Carolina offense may have an even tougher task. Clemson’s defense is only allowing 316 yards per game which would rank them fourth in the SEC just ahead of Georgia. The Gamecocks’ offensive efficiency against Georgia was ranked in the 27th percentile, and were able to manage 315 total yards and 14 points (with the last touchdown coming with 1:40 remaining in the game).
South Carolina is already bowl eligible which many Gamecock fans would have found acceptable prior to the Clemson game during the month of September. It knocked off a ranked opponent, and features promising young talent. The defense has performed alright despite losing linebacker Skai Moore to injury.
Win or lose Saturday night, South Carolina has already won this season.