Week 13 - South Carolina at Clemson

Posted Nov 21, 2012

Week 13 Fearless Prediction – South Carolina at Clemson

South Carolina (9-2) at Clemson (10-1) Nov. 24, 7:00, ESPN

Here's The Deal: South Carolina and Clemson have never liked one another. However, the hatred has reached a new level of venom over the past year.

The Palmetto State Showdown may take place in November, but that hasn't stopped each school from taking jabs at each other throughout the year. Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier and Tigers coach Dabo Swinney have traded a series of high-profile verbal swipes since the two met a year ago, ratcheting up the intensity of the fan bases. As if they needed it.

Spurrier has beaten Swinney three straight times, and isn't likely to be warmly received in Death Valley. There'll be a ton at stake, besides just bragging rights, in this first-ever meeting when both programs are ranked in the top 15. For starters, it's one of four ACC-SEC showdowns in Week 13, which is of particular interest to the ACC. A South Carolina victory means that Spurrier becomes the winningest coach in school history, and that the ‘Cocks will have won at least 10 games in consecutive years for the first time ever. Of course, beating Clemson four straight seasons really requires no other additional nuggets or facts.

The Tigers enter the final weekend of the regular season as one of the hottest teams in America. They've lost just a single game, to 10-1 Florida State, all the way back on Sept. 22. Since then, Clemson has trucked seven consecutive opponents with an offense that's rivaling any in the country. It can no longer win the ACC, boxed out by the ‘Noles, but a coveted BCS bowl bid is there for the taking with a victory on Saturday night. The Sugar Bowl would love to get the Tigers in the Superdome, but only if they remain among the country's one-loss squads.

Why South Carolina Might Win: The better defense calls Columbia home.

Clemson is dynamite on offense, but it's also been rolling through opponents that don't house more than a player or two who'd start for the Gamecocks defense. South Carolina is big, fast and physical; it's nasty, getting its marching orders from a D-line headed by ends Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor, and DT Kelcy Quarles. The ‘Cocks are going to hit the Tigers skill position players like they haven't been hit all year, laying the lumber with heady LB Shaq Wilson and head-hunting FS D.J. Swearinger.

On the other side of the field, Clemson just got done being bludgeoned for 493 yards and five touchdowns through the air. South Carolina QB Connor Shaw isn't flashy, but he is effective, especially when facing an inconsistent opponent that's spotty in coverage. He'll break containment when necessary, while putting WR Ace Sanders and TE Justice Cunningham in a position to make plays. The Gamecocks have proven they can put up points, norming almost 32 a game.

Why Clemson Might Win: South Carolina will score, but can it score enough to keep pace with the Tigers?

You could argue that Clemson has the most explosive offense in the country, and win that debate after Oregon was silenced by Stanford. It ranks No. 4 nationally at 52 points a game, ringing up at least 37 in all but the opener. The challenge for opponents is matching the attack's speed, versatility and complexities. Coordinator Chad Morris will employ a multitude of different looks, doing whatever is needed to get RB Andre Ellington and receivers Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins out into space. Playing teams from the SEC, like LSU and Florida, does little to prepare South Carolina for what it'll see this weekend.

Shaw is a nice player, the kind of kid with whom a team can win plenty of games. Clemson QB Tajh Boyd, though, has been operating at an entirely different level; a Heisman level if only more voters were paying attention. The conductor of Morris' production has raised his game to a new plateau by throwing five touchdown passes in three of the last four games. Heck, in the blowout of NC State last week, he accounted for eight scores, while rushing for a career-high 103 yards.

What To Watch Out For: What's the deal with your D, Brent?

Brent Venables was lured to Clemson from Oklahoma by Swinney in the offseason to help fix the defense. The unit was playing to mixed reviews, but started to shape up in the month leading up to last week. However, the bottom fell out versus NC State and QB Mike Glennon. The Tigers need to figure out quickly if the game with the Pack was an anomaly or the start of a downward spiral. The unit isn't brimming with all-star talent, or much confidence after last week's shelling.

A lot is going to depend on the play of the two backs that have succeeded injured Marcus Lattimore, veteran Kenny Miles and rookie Mike Davis. If Miles and Davis can help control the clock and wear down Venables' kids, it'll make it much tougher for Clemson to operate its style of play.

What Will Happen: Get the children under the sheets early. This one could get ugly on Saturday evening.

One of the nation's best rivalries will live up to its billing this weekend. South Carolina and Clemson are going to go toe-to-toe for 60 minutes; maybe more if security doesn't get on the field fast enough. The Gamecocks are flush with defensive talent, but the offenses will dictate the tempo of this game. It's too difficult to stop the Tigers, and the ‘Cocks will be up to the challenge of keeping pace behind Shaw, Miles and Sanders.

Count on a see-saw battle that won't declare a winner until the final 10 minutes or so. That's about the time that Boyd will enhance his legacy as one of the great quarterbacks in Clemson history. He won't be denied the chance to finally beat South Carolina, accounting for four more scores in a thrilling, BCS bowl-securing win for his Tigers.

CFN Prediction: Clemson 38 … South Carolina 31
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Clemson -4 O/U: 61.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – Beware of Mr. Baker, 1 – Life of Pi): 4.5