The last time the University of South Carolina defeated Clemson in football was November 30, 2013. The players who walked off the field then, just to name a few, were Connor Shaw, Jadeveon Clowney, Bruce Ellington and Victor Hampton. It seems like ages ago since those players were here, and now it’s nothing but a distant memory.
The Gamecocks of the past aren't the Gamecocks of now or of the future. This is obvious, but the team that used to play for South Carolina isn’t the team that sits in front of you today. The University of South Carolina football program has never been more successful in the 21st century, and Will Muschamp is potentially taking our, as he would say, “progrum” to levels it hasn't seen before.
I’m not here to talk about our season, I’m here to talk about what we’re going to have to do to put ourselves in a position to win. We definitely can win, that isn’t in question — if a 4-7 Syracuse team can beat the Tigers, I know we can. And oh yeah, before you Clemson fans get triggered at that and compare it to losing to Pitt last year, Deshaun Watson, Mike Williams, Ben Boulware, and whoever else of last year’s team isn’t walking through that door. Stop comparing it to that. Your “quality loss” just got their brains beat out by Louisville, who’s garbage this year.
Jake Bentley is going to have to be near perfect.
Bentley is going to have play extremely well this game. He can't throw an interception, and he has to get us in 2nd and 3rd and short. Sure, some of that is going to rely on the run game, but if we consistently put ourselves in 3rd and 10 or longer, this is going to be an extremely long game. I’d say Bentley’s stat line would have to be somewhere near 22-31 with 275 yards and two touchdowns for a Gamecock win. That’s pretty close to what Syracuse’s quarterback had in their upset victory, and I’d say Bentley has the weapons and talent to have a better game than him.
Now, will Bentley do this? I have absolutely no idea. I think he can get close to that if our receivers don't drop the ball like they did against Wofford. If I remember correctly, our WR corps had 5 drops, so Jake would've gone 27-of-28. I know, a lot of his throws were short because of Wofford’s prevent-style defense, but that’s still a great day for him considering his accuracy woes this year. And yeah, I totally understand that he did that against Wofford, but Wofford is a top-8 FCS team that was 9-1.
Bottom line, Jake Bentley is going to have to come in guns blazing. If we can get up early and make a few big plays and make Clemson play from behind, it could end up being a good day for Jake. A lot of his success is going to come off the back of the run game, but it’s time he comes alive and lights someone up. Doubt it’s going to happen, but a kid can hope.
Limit the big plays.
Can’t let these guys break off huge runs and chunk plays consistently. Most of Clemson’s scores in close games came off of plays of 30 or more yards, so I think if we make them drive the field all game they’re not going to score often. Don't get me wrong; they have two extremely talented players in Deon Cane and Travis Etienne, who, to me, are their best players when it comes to making big plays. If our defense can stop them, Kelly Bryant is going to have a really long day.
The defense has to hold them to fewer than 30 points.
As a pleasant surprise to a point, South Carolina’s defense hasn't given up more than 28 points this year. The defense is currently averaging right at 20 points a game, which is top 20 in the entire country. Will Muschamp’s record when his teams score more than 17 points is well above .500, and Clemson’s defense is still really good. Their defensive line is elite, and there is no question to that.
For us to win, I’d think the score would have to be something like 24-21. I really don't trust Parker White past the 35 in a game like this, and I’m just hoping that field goal comes earlier in the game rather than later. I don't know if we can have the kind of day where we drop 30-plus; it just doesn't seem likely. I do have faith in the defense to come out and play really well.
Get two or more turnovers.
When we were 3-8 going into the Clemson game, we had absolutely no business being anywhere in that game. Clemson turned the ball over three times, and it was one of the only reasons we were anywhere relatively close to winning. The Gamecock defense is tied for 20th in the nation with 21 forced turnovers, which is one of the reasons we’ve been successful this year.
Nothing would be better than a record-breaking interception for Skai Moore that would also somehow seal the game for us. A Dante Sawyer forced fumble and turnover also seems extremely likely, considering he leads the entire nation with 5. I’ll take a turnover any way we can get them, it could be game changing.
Offensive line has to play lights out.
Clemson’s defensive line is elite. There just isn’t any other way to put it. The combination of Dexter Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, and Austin Bryant is extremely scary. Those guys have combined for 20.5 sacks and 37.5 tackles for loss. Can’t say we’ve faced a starting rotation that is has played as well as those guys all year.
As an offensive line, the Gamecocks have only given up more than two sacks once since the Texas A&M meltdown. I would say Florida and Georgia’s defensive lines were about the best we’ve played this year since A&M, and we held our own. I would expect Clemson to have something like 3 sacks and 5 TFL, but if they go over that it would mean we most likely lost.
Another part of the offensive line playing well would be the run game. In the last couple of games except Georgia, it seems like our run game has been doing well. If the offense puts itself in the 2nd and 3rd and short, it can be a great day. If not, our success is going to ride on Jake Bentley.
Watch every Justin King video
I mean seriously, if these guys can't get up from our media’s videos, then I don't know what’s wrong with them. When he originally posted those videos on his YouTube, I would literally get goosebumps every time. Our media team has been nothing short of amazing this year, and I can't wait for this week’s videos.
I also can't wait for every Clemson fan to literally lose their freaking minds over this post. I get that Clemson is in the top four or whatever, but I couldn't care less. I really do believe we have a good chance to beat Clemson. It’s not impossible, and I think if we can accomplish most of the goals I’ve set out, then it will be a good game for us.
Winning this game would obviously go a long way, as far as the season and the future goes. Nine wins in Year 2 would be a great accomplishment, whether it comes this weekend or in our bowl game. Obviously, if we win against Clemson then the Gamecocks would get an even better bowl bid. Steve Spurrier only won 10 or more games three times, and for Muschamp to win 10 in Year 2 with the players we currently have would be nothing short of SEC Coach of the Year material. I think Muschamp is proving every weekend that he belongs as a head coach in the SEC.
Now let’s go beat the Tigers.