I see four main areas where Clemson was able to really display an advantage over Carolina, leading to a big Tigers win and the end of Carolina's five-game winning streak in the series.
The first was in QB play. Against a team with a strong defensive front that wasn't going to be gashed on the ground, Carolina needed Dylan Thompson to come to play in this game. After making some good throws early in the game, Dylan was quickly rattled by pressure from Clemson's line, and he was never able to get in a rhythm on his throws. There were a handful of opportunities for Carolina to get a big play and get back in the ball game, particularly two throws at the end of the first half, where Dylan misfired. Hit those plays, and Carolina may have had a chance at the end of this game. Unfortunately, Dylan didn't connect.
The second was Carolina's lack of talent at the defensive end position. Clemson's Deshaun Watson was very immobile in the game, and Carolina could have shut down CU's passing game if the Gamecocks could have gotten some pressure on Watson. However, the Gamecocks gave Watson a very clean pocket all game, and Watson was able to hit some big third-down throws to extend drives. Given Carolina's inability to pressure Clemson with the front four, I think Whammy Ward should have blitzed more, but as usual, Ward didn't have an answer to help negate his talent deficiencies somewhat.
The lack of talent at end was also very apparent on the touch pass sweep play that Clemson ran several times to Artavis Scott for big yardage. The end has to seal the edge on that play or at least disrupt it enough to allow the linebackers and corners to get in on the action, but neither David Johnson nor Gerald Dixon were capable of doing that today. Credit goes to Chad Morris for recognizing this flaw in Carolina's personnel and exploiting it.
A third area of the game that I think ended up being really important was the matchup between Clemson's defensive line and Carolina's offensive line. We knew our offensive line had a tough task ahead against the stout Clemson defensive front, but I hoped for a little bit more success than we saw from Carolina in this game. In short, Clemson dominated the game up front and really showed off the improved personnel it has in that position group. This was an area where Carolina had an advantage during the streak.
A final big key that loomed large to me was the injury to Rico McWilliams. To compensate for this loss, Carolina moved Brison Williams back to corner and played Chris Moody at safety. Moody's undisciplined play helped Clemson turn some good gains into backbreakers. In saying that, I'm not discrediting Clemson to any extent; if anything, Clemson had more problems with injuries in this game. I just think McWilliams's absence was costly to Carolina.
In short, this was a dominant win by Clemson, who clearly had the better team this year. Steve Spurrier has a big job ahead if he wants to see us through a complete rebuild. Obviously, staff changes of some sort are likely in the coming weeks, and we'll keep you posted on our thoughts on those changes as they begin to come down.