It took all season, but the South Carolina Gamecocks football team is finally ranked - No. 24 in the College Football Playoff. Of course, a 23-13 loss to Kentucky early in the season can hinder one's entrance into such polls.
However, USC is here …
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However, USC is here now with an 8-3 record and a chance to really put a stamp on a turnaround season on Saturday against defending national champion and No. 3 Clemson. This is one of the games that provides opportunities that should leave Carolina fans salivating beyond just snapping a 3-game losing streak to the Tigers with a victory.
Of course, a South Carolina win almost assuredly would knock Clemson out of the running for one of the four playoff spots. That is unless you believe a Tiger win over Miami in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game next week coupled with the Gamecocks being considered a quality opponent would push them back into the top four. Yes, this theory is out there.
Also a victory over the Tigers would give USC a shot at a 10-win season. No one would have considered this to be a conversation piece this late in the season at the start of the year.
With that being said, following are five things Carolina needs to happen to pull off the upset.
1. RUN THE BALL - AND BENTLEY
Running the ball on Clemson will not be an easy - some might consider it impossible - task with their tremendous front seven. However, South Carolina needs to run the football some if for no other reason than to take some time off the clock. It can't afford a lot of 3-downs-and-out series that only takes up 30 seconds or so.
One way to keep Clemson honest is to have a few called runs for quarterback Jake Bentley. He has shown the ability to pick up yards on called plays.
2. SPY WITH SKAI
The heck with Gamecock linebacker Skai Moore trying to be the team leader in tackles for four straight seasons or trying to become the school's all-time interception leader. His job against the Tigers should be to stand there and look at quarterback Kelly Bryant.
If Bryant is content standing in the pocket, Moore stands there and eyes him. If he's moving around to avoid the pass rush, move with him but don't attack. However, if he pulls the ball down and takes off, Moore goes with him in pursuit.
Bryant cannot be allowed to run free.
3. CAPITALIZE ON OPPORTUNITIES
USC hasn't shown the propensity to be an offensive juggernaut at any point during the season, and the odds are it will be tough sledding against Clemson. So when the chances to put points on the board come around, Carolina has to be able to do so.
4. DON'T ALLOW BIG PLAYS
South Carolina has to make the Tigers work for their points. It has to make them drive the field instead of giving up big plays and quick points.
5. BE SPECIAL ON SPECIAL TEAMS
The Gamecocks have been goo in all aspects of special teams except for the one obvious one - field goals.
They don't need a letdown in the other categories and need to convert on field goals 45 yards or closer.
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