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Five Keys to Victory: Clemson

No. 12 South Carolina will travel to the Upstate to take on No. 11 Clemson this Saturday night with bragging rights on the line. This article takes a look at what the Gamecocks must do well to ensure they beat the Tigers for the fourth time in a row.

South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw

1. Establish the run – Clemson is giving up about 163 yards per game on the ground, which is an improvement over last season. However, South Carolina must stay committed to the run and find success both with their running backs and Connor Shaw. There is no better antidote for an opponent’s fast-paced offense than to keep them on the sideline watching your team move the chains and eat the clock. Clemson had no answer for Shaw’s mobility in last year’s game, but an injured foot could limit his effectiveness running the ball this year. South Carolina has run the ball over 50 times in two of their last three meetings with Clemson and would love to do the same again this year.

2. Get off blocks and tackle well in space – Clemson takes pressure off their offensive line by throwing a significant number of quick passes to the flat to their playmakers. This also takes pressure off Boyd because he can get rid of the ball immediately and not have to make any kind of read. The Gamecock defensive backs need to get off lead blocks quickly and have their best tackling game since the Georgia contest to limit Clemson’s yards after the catch.

3. Pressure Boyd all night – When Tajh Boyd is pressured, he’s a much less effective quarterback, as evidenced by last year’s game when he was held to 83 yards passing. He’s more mobile this year than last, which gives him a better chance to escape pressure, but that can’t change the way the Gamecocks defend him. He may pickup yards here and there with his feet, but he’s ntot likely to beat them running the ball. Generating consistent pressure with the front four would take pressure off the Gamecock secondary and not force them to cover the talented Clemson wideouts for unreasonable amounts of time.

4. Take advantage of turnover opportunities – When Boyd is pressured, he also has a tendency to put the ball in danger, and the Gamecock defense has to take advantage of these opportunities when they present themselves. Whether it’s picking off a Boyd pass or recovering a loose ball, the more turnovers they can force, the more likely they are to win this ball game. The team that’s won the turnover battle has won this contest the last seven times.

5. Limit Clemson’s offensive possessions – Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris wants his offense to run 80+ plays and possess the ball 15+ times over the course of a game. South Carolina can’t let that happen, and it will take a complete team effort to prevent it. It all starts with the Gamecock defense getting off the field in crucial situations, but the offense also needs to help out by staying on the field by converting on key third and fourth down situations.

Final analysis – Clemson is explosive on offense when they’re hitting on all cylinders, but they’ve had problems running the ball at times against good defenses and their defense has had a hard time stopping teams all year. South Carolina has run the ball with consistency but has been inconsistent passing the ball, especially on the road. Their defense has played well in most of the games this season, but they haven’t always held up against the better passing teams they’ve faced this year.

Coming into this game Clemson is playing better than South Carolina all things considered, but they have faced a ridiculously soft schedule. I’m either going to look like a genius or a fool, but I think the Gamecock defense will be up to the task of holding the Tigers offense in check relative to the numbers they’ve racked up against lesser opponents. South Carolina has been the stronger and more physical team for three straight years, and I believe that to be the case again this year. I look for Jadeveon Clowney to have a huge game and for Shaw to get the “road monkey” off his back in helping head coach Steve Spurrier become the school’s all-time winningest head coach.

Prediction – South Carolina 31 Clemson 24

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