2011 Prediction & Game Story
Week 13, Clemson at South Carolina
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Nov. 26 at South Carolina 34 … Clemson 13
CFN Analysis: COMING
(AP) COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw played like a beast against Clemson. And he's got the T-shirt to prove it.
The "Beast Mode" shirt Shaw wore after the game was a reward for leading the Gamecocks (No. 12 BCS, No. 14 AP) to a 34-13 win against Clemson (No. 17 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP) on Saturday night.
Strength coach Craig Fitzgerald gave Shaw the shirt off his back.
"I loved this shirt and I came up to coach Fitz and said, 'If we win this game, I'm getting that shirt,'" Shaw said.
The sophomore who got the starting job in midseason passed for three touchdowns and ran for another in the landmark win. The Gamecocks (10-2) reached 10 victories for just the second time in 118 years of football. It was also their third straight win over the Tigers (9-3), something that last occurred from 1968-70.
Shaw finished 14 of 20 passing for 210 yards, including the longest touchdown pass of his career, a 49-yard strike to Bruce Ellington. Shaw also led the Gamecocks with 107 yards rushing.
"I feel like my confidence is boosting game by game the more I play," Shaw said. "I have a better feel for the game and am starting to see the bigger picture."
That could be awful for Clemson, which figures to deal with Shaw for two more seasons in a rivalry that has slipped out of its hands the past few years.
The Tigers came in with a 65-39-4 edge in the state's most talked-about matchup.
"Historically, Clemson has owned this series," Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said. "They don't own us now."
Shaw cemented his place in this landmark rivalry win with an 18-yard strike to star wideout Alshon Jeffery, which sent most of the 83,422 at Williams-Brice Stadium into hysterics.
And they couldn't think of a better way to end the regular season.
"Ten, 20 years down the road, we're still going to be talking about this," said Gamecocks defensive end Melvin Ingram, who had two of his team's five sacks.
In a state without major pro sports teams, this was supposed to be South Carolina's time in the spotlight. Instead, the Tigers bounced back from their first losing season in 12 years in 2010 to open 8-0 and push their way into the national championship conversation.
Boyd was a rising Heisman Trophy contender who threw for 24 TDs and three interceptions during that undefeated run. But he and the Tigers high-flying offense have crash landed since as Boyd's thrown seven interceptions his past four games.
He did break Clemson's single-season mark with his 28th touchdown pass, a first-half scoring throw to Dwayne Allen.
The Tigers weren't close to good enough to keep up with South Carolina's defense. When Boyd wasn't on the turf, he scrambling away to avoid even more sacks. Clemson's offensive yards were a season low as was Boyd's production. His previous low was 204 passing yards in a 23-3 win at Virginia Tech.
The Tigers get another chance at a 10th win -- and an ACC title -- at Bank of America Stadium next week against the Hokies. But both those goals seem like pipe dreams the way Clemson's playing now.
"We're just not playing winning football. It's as simple as that," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.
Swinney will play in his second conference title game in the past three years, but fell to 1/3 against the Gamecocks and Spurrier.
When summer camp started, Shaw figured to be capable insurance policy if fifth-year senior Stephen Garcia got hurt. However, Shaw was thrown into the lineup as Garcia struggled and was eventually dismissed from the program last month. Gradually, the Gamecocks offense adjusted to Shaw and his added running dimension he brought.
Shaw easily took advantage of Clemson's inability to handle his speed and elusiveness. ""I knew coming into this game Clemson had a trouble with mobile quarterbacks," he said.
Swinney seemed most bothered by Shaw's success. "That's the most disappointing thing to me coming out of this game -- we let the quarterback beat us," he said.
Clemson will have two more tries to get to 10 wins for the first time since 1990.
Spurrier had been on a high the previous couple of weeks since the Gamecocks finished Southeastern Conference play with their best mark ever, 6-2, and had defeated its five other Eastern Division opponents, including Georgia, Florida and Tennessee. It wasn't enough to get them back to the title game, though, overtaken by Georgia's run of seven straight league games.
Spurrier dominated the SEC in the 1990s with his "Fun-n-Gun" offense at Florida. These days, he's become comfortable if not downright giddy about his team's grind-it-out mentality.
"There's nothing wrong with the way we're playing, if you can run the ball decently, you got a chance to score some points and you got a defense like we got," Spurrier said.
The Gamecocks will await the chance for a 11th win, something they've never done, when the bowl bids are finalized on Dec. 4. Representatives from the Sugar, Citrus, Outback, Gator and Chick-fil-A bowls were on hand.
"I think we might wind up back in Atlanta," Spurrier said of the home of the Chick-fil-A Bowl. "That's just a guess."
The Gamecocks fell to Florida State, 26-19, in Atlanta last season.
Clemson's offense continued its struggles of recent weeks. The Tigers went three-and-out its first two series and didn't get a first down until 12 seconds remained in the opening quarter.
South Carolina freshman defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was held out the first quarter for an undisclosed violation of team rules. He returned in the second quarter and pressured Boyd several times.
Clemson (9-2) at South Carolina (9-2) Nov. 26, 7:45, ESPN
Here’s The Deal … South Carolina has won the last two in this storied rivalry. Clemson wants the state championship back.
For the first time in the 115-year history of this game, both combatants will enter it with identical 9-2 marks. And naturally, the 10-win threshold will be the prize of the victor. The Tigers haven’t reached that mark since 1990. The Gamecocks have done it just one time, 27 years ago.
For Clemson, this Saturday will be as much a psychological battle as a physical one. The ACC Atlantic Division champs have an ugly, 37-13 loss to North Carolina State in the rear view mirror, and a date with either Virginia or Virginia Tech in the league title game in the on-deck circle. While the team gets a pass for last week’s effort in Raleigh because little was at stake, it hasn’t played a complete game in more than a month. A little momentum heading into Charlotte next Saturday would be nice.
South Carolina has persevered as well as any SEC team in 2011, gutting out victories in the second half after losing star RB Marcus Lattimore to an injury, and star-crossed QB Stephen Garcia to a suspension. Losses to Auburn and Arkansas denied the Gamecocks the East Division that it controlled until early November, but there’s still a ton to play for over the next month. The stakes this weekend are self-explanatory, and the program hasn’t landed a bowl win since 2006. At 11-2, South Carolina would finish the season in the top 10, culminating in one of the best coaching jobs Steve Spurrier has ever done.
Why Clemson Might Win: Erase the Wolfpack game from your data bank. It was an anomaly.
The Tigers are poised to get back to where they were earlier in the year, scoring points in droves. The South Carolina offense simply won’t be able to keep pace with Clemson on this night. In the four games with FBS opponents since Lattimore went down, the Gamecocks averaged just 18 points, and got only tepid support from QB Connor Shaw. Shaw has been so mediocre, it’s neutralized WR Alshon Jeffery, which is no small feat.
The Tigers, on the other hand, have playmakers galore, especially now that freshman phenom Sammy Watkins is expected back after missing last week’s game. The one time that the ‘Cocks saw as many good athletes as they will this weekend, they yielded 435 yards and four offensive scores to Arkansas. Clemson can exact a similar amount of damage behind the passing of Tajh Boyd, running of Andre Ellington and field-stretching ability of Watkins, WR DeAndre Hopkins and TE Dwayne Allen.
Why South Carolina Might Win: This just might be the best defense that Clemson sees all year.
How have the Gamecocks remained afloat since having their backfield gutted? That would be the work of the D. This is a grown-up unit that ranks No. 5 nationally, and has allowed only four touchdown passes over the last nine games. If Watkins and Hopkins are going to excel, they’ll need to earn it against a ferocious secondary led by CB Stephon Gilmore and S D.J. Swearinger. South Carolina is a fast and disruptive unit that favors swarm tackling as a means of getting its point across.
An average and hobbled Tigers O-line will need to pay special attention to linemen Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney, and spur Antonio Allen, who’ve shown a penchant for taking over games with big plays.
What To Watch Out For: Clemson has had all kinds of problems stopping the run this season, allowing 4.5 yards a carry. Will South Carolina be able to exploit that group this weekend?
In Lattimore’s absence, the Gamecocks have turned to another underclassman, 6-1, 223-pound true freshman Brandon Wilds. By and large, he’s done a solid job on the ground, rushing for more than 100 yards in three of the last four games.
More of the same will be needed this weekend, because it’s clear that Shaw is in no position to carry the offense on his shoulders. South Carolina’s biggest concern when it has the ball will be to keep DE Andre Branch and NG Brandon Thompson out of the backfield. The ‘Cocks have had issues in pass protection, and will start a pair of freshmen up front, LG A.J. Cann and RT Mike Matulis.
What Will Happen: Having played The Citadel last Saturday, South Carolina has basically had two weeks to prepare for this game. It’ll be ready.
It’s late November, when physical defenses are often ahead of speedy offenses. The Gamecocks are going to make the Tigers earn all of their points, and playing at Williams-Brice Stadium is no small edge. Clemson hasn’t been the same team it was in September and early October, a trend that’ll continue in Columbia. South Carolina, with no game to worry about next weekend, will fly all over the field on defense, creating the turnovers and key defensive stops that help secure a rare third consecutive victory in this series.
CFN Prediction: South Carolina 23 … Clemson 17
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