Clemson at South Carolina: What to Watch for When Clemson Has the Ball

This post begins our series on this weekend's Clemson game. Today, we're talking about Clemson's offense and how our defense stacks up.

The first story for the Clemson offense this year has been the work of Chad Morris as offensive coordinator. After handling the offense for the past few years, Dabo Swinney took a more managerial role this year and gave the reigns to Morris. As most of you know. Morris learned his chops from his friend Gus Malzahn, and you can expect to see shades of Malzahn in Morris's gameplan Saturday night. Morris has thrown it a bit more this year than one would expect from a Malzahn disciple, but he favors a similarly up-tempo attack as the guiding principle behind his scheme. His results during the first part of the season were very Malzahn-esque, with Clemson fielding one of the country's most efficient, explosive offenses.

The second half of the season, though, hasn't gone so well, and that brings us to the second part of the story: Clemson's offensive line is struggling mightily. If you ask a perceptive Clemson fan, you'll learn that this has been a problem all year; Clemson was merely good at hiding it for a few games. Since then, Clemson's running game has disappeared, and Tajh Boyd has been a sitting duck for defensive ends. The result has been that Clemson can no longer get the ball to its talented playmakers and that it's turning the ball over at a breathtaking pace.

All of this has established a blueprint for shutting down Morris and Boyd: Defensively, this game starts up front for the Gamecocks. If Clemson gets its running game going and buys enough time for Boyd to find his receivers, the Tigers are every bit good enough to score on us just as easily as Arkansas did. In fact, I think Arkansas and Clemson are very similar in terms of talent at the skills positions. However, if Carolina wins in the trenches, shuts down the running game, and is able to shake up Boyd (who is careless with the ball while under pressure), it will be able to keep Clemson in check and maybe even get a defensive score or two along the way. Carolina didn't get this kind of pressure against Arkansas, but Clemson doesn't have Arkansas's offensive line.

Will we do it? I don't know for sure. I do know, though, that N.C. State's ends ran wild over Clemson last week. Us? We've got three of the best in the country in Melvin Ingram, Devin Taylor, and Jadeveon Clowney. I see little reason to believe they won't be able to get to Boyd early and often.

Don’t forget to show support for your favorite coach by voting him as the 2011 Liberty Mutual Coach of the year at www.coachoftheyear.com.

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