Welcome back to the Q&A’s, just in time for Clemsux. Big thanks to Brian Lewis for the help, even if I do hate Clemson.
1. Obviously, 56-7 is still much in the minds of both Clemson and Carolina fans. Do you think there is any chance the score is close to that again this year?
I'd be pretty surprised. Clemson's offense is not as explosive this year and that type of victory usually requires a lot of things to go right for one team and wrong for the other. Dabo also hasn't shown much of an inclination to run up the score this year. We've seen a lot of rotating the backups in as soon as Clemson goes up 14-21 points. The playcalling also gets conservative pretty quickly which has led to a lot of grumbling from us. My guess is a bad loss for y'all would be something in the 28 point range this year, assuming Clemson can get there.
2. Kelly Bryant seems to be the temporary placeholder at QB for Clemson until Trevor Lawrence, at least from an outsider’s perspective. What is he going to have to do to beat the Gamecocks?
Bryant is going to run the ball. He's a battering ram at 6'4" and a good 220 lbs. But he's also got some decent speed. We've seen a lot of times where he will lower his shoulder to hit a defender, or wiggle out of the grasp of some poor CBs to get a first down. That running ability allows him to keep defenses honest, especially since his throwing ability is a real step down from Deshaun Watson. But he's going to have to make some throws and that's where it gets dicey. Bryant doesn't have a great deep ball.
3. Clemson is still very much in the running for a playoff spot. A lot of people were shocked that Clemson was #2 in the most recent CFP rankings, were you?
I guess? The one thing I always tell everyone is don't worry about any of the rankings but the final one in December. The committee seems to have different standards for in season rankings versus the final one. And the final ranking always has teams grouped by number of losses and then teams with the same number of losses are ordered based on schedule, quality, etc. That's the one thing that has held true each year. All P5 0-loss teams are at the top, then the 1-loss teams, then the 2-loss teams, etc. The only thing I try to worry about is Clemson winning out now, that should be enough to get into the playoff.
4. What’s one weakness on this Carolina squad that Clemson should be able to take advantage of?
Smothering the offense. Per BillC's S&P+ the offense isn't great. Clemson's DL should be able to shut down a lot of what the Gamecock offense does. And if they can do that there will not be as much pressure on Bryant and the offense to perform. If you see Clemson's offense going conservative with a 2-3 score lead in the second half then the coaching staff is pretty confident in the defense.
5. What position group for the Gamecocks frightens you the most?
The run defense as a whole bothers me. Clemson lives and dies by the running game for the most part and I wonder if y'all will be able to slow down the run enough. The underlying stats on your run defense are decent, and that is certainly the strength of the defense, outside of 3rd and short situations. It is a little bit of strength vs. strength in the matchup and until I see how Clemson performs I'll be concerned. Should Clemson win the battle, probably. But it is a rivalry game and as cliche as it is to say, a lot of strange things happen in rivalry games.
6. What improvements have you seen on this Carolina team from last year’s?
To me the big difference is fight. In our comparison the talent level is similar to last year, but this year from what I've seen from the Gamecocks y'all have had a lot more fight in you, even when things go poorly. That worries me for a rivalry game because of how emotional everyone gets. That fight can easily be worth an extra TD or two, especially if Clemson isn't ready for it. Muschamp has done an excellent job of getting buy in this year and that will certainly give Clemson a scare if not cause some real problems.
7. What kind of day does Clemson’s defensive line need to have for Clemson to win comfortably?
They have to get penetration without blitzing, but stay disciplined. One of the big problems in Clemson's loss to Syracuse was not that they couldn't get any pressure, but that the DEs were constantly overpursuing and opening holes for Eric Dungey. That can't happen again. Clemson has to play disciplined football on the DL. If they do that I think they'll be able to get pressure to Bentley and kill the running game. The Gamecock offense isn't great, especially in the run game, and that makes it even easier for Clemson to try and get to Bentley all evening.
8. Any injuries Gamecock fans should know about?
Dexter Lawrence has been in and out all year with a toe injury. He was held out last weekend to rest up but he hasn't been his dominant DL self this year. At CB we've had some real injury issues with Mark Fields, Marcus Edmond, and Ryan Carter all missing time. They should all be back, but who knows how healthy they will be. The final injury is to LB Kendall Joseph. He's expected to play as well but all 5 players will be at less than 100%.
9. Score prediction?
I think Clemson's defense is able stop the offense most of the time and our offense does enough to win by 3 scores. I'm seeing 24-7 type of score in favor of Clemson.