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ORANGE CRUSH // Clemson's season so far

130.7.

It's just a number, but in this case it's the average rushing yards per game for the DaviSpiller monster in 2007. It's also a good bit behind the 163.5 ypg the duo put up last season.

And that pretty well wraps up Clemson's season this year: Good, but not quite as good as it could have been.

The Tigers rolled up a 4-0 record and climbed to No. 13 in the polls before going to Atlanta to play against mediocre Georgia Tech for a chance to leap into the Top 10. QB Cullen Harper misfired, DaviSpiller combined for just 62 yards rushing, and the Yellow Jackets beat Clemson 13-3. Virginia Tech smashed the Tigers, 41-23, the next week. After a bye week, Clemson demolished Central Michigan, 70-14, then reeled off wins against lightweights Maryland, Duke and Wake Forest to set up an all-or-nothing game for the division title against Boston College. Clemson started out strong but eventually allowed the Eagles back in the game, and BC took the 20-17 victory and the division crown. DaviSpiller ran for 62 yards in that game as well, and while Harper's line was okay in terms of completions and yards (26-of-40 for 226 yards), he threw one pick and no TDs.

The theme for winning seems to be -- no surprise -- to shut down Clemson's running game. The teams that have won have largely done that. The entire team rushed for just 34 yards against Georgia Tech, eight against the Hokies and 47 against BC. The only other sub-100-yard effort was against Furman(!), when the team gained 60 yards on 33 carries. Regardless of Harper's solid effort this year, shutting down the pass doesn't seem particularly effective against Clemson; the teams that have held the Tigers to the fewest air yards were Duke (198), Georgia Tech (194), Maryland (179) and Florida State (160). Clemson is 3-1 in those games.


Something Tyrone Nix can feel good about.

Clemson's also been effective on defense this year, holding opponents to 115.3 rushing ypg and 175.7 passing ypg. Teams have beaten them in different ways on offense, BC through the air (315 yards), Georgia Tech (189 yards) and Virginia Tech (154 yards) on the ground. Conversely, Louisiana-Monroe rushed for 271 yards and Furman passed for 242.

What does all that mean for South Carolina?

The closest previous Clemson opponent to the Gamecocks in terms of total offense and rushing offense is Florida State. South Carolina is 74th in total offense (373 ypg), FSU is 78th (367 ypg); the Gamecocks are 98th in rushing offense (116.7 ypg), the Seminoles are 94th (123.6 ypg). Florida State managed 256 yards against Clemson, 114 of those on the ground.

As far as passing offense, there are a few close to South Carolina's 38th place statistically -- a tie, coincidentally, with Clemson, though the Tigers have 29 passing TDs to the Gamecocks' 17. The Gamecocks get an average of 255.8 ypg through the air; Central Michigan (36th, 261.8 ypg), N.C. State (42nd, 246.2 ypg) and Florida State (45th, 243.5 ypg) are all reasonably close. Central Michigan threw for 216 yards against Clemson, N.C. State passed for 147 yards and Florida State aired it out for 142 yards.

That means that if South Carolina wins Saturday, it will likely have to be in a defensive struggle.

In terms of total defense, South Carolina (53rd, 372.2 ypg) is closest to Maryland (48th, 365.55 ypg). The Terps yielded 428 yards to Clemson.

On rushing defense, South Carolina (103rd, 208.9 ypg) is at least 20 spots lower statistically than anyone else who has faced Clemson. Central Michigan (80th, 180.5 ypg), N.C. State (82nd, 180.7 ypg) and Duke (83rd, 180.8 ypg) are closest. They surrendered 341, 340 and 152 yards to Clemson, respectively. (If you're looking for the reason for the disparity, the Tigers ran 32 times against Duke, 61 against Central Michigan and 50 against N.C. State.)

Passing defense? The nearest comparison statistically to South Carolina (4th, 163.3 ypg) is Virginia Tech (27th, 204.2 ypg), though that's somewhat misleading because anyone with a sentient running back who throws more than 25 passes against the Gamecocks needs to have their head examined. In any case, the Hokies allowed Harper to throw for 372 yards.

Looks like it might be a long day at the WB.