While the South Carolina football team has some tremendous opportunities awaiting it with a victory over Clemson on Saturday in Columbia, none of them compare to what a victory means for the Tigers.
A triumph over USC would keep Clemson in line …
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A triumph over USC would keep Clemson in line for receiving one of the four berths in the College Football Playoffs. Of course, it would need a victory over Miami in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game next week to fulfill it, but it's obviously a necessary step in the process.
If the Tigers are able to find their way back into the playoffs, they will most certainly have proven they are more than a 1-trick pony named Deshaun Watson. That has no doubt offered plenty of motivation for them this season.
In order for them to come away with a win, here are five things they need to do.
1. AVOID EARLY TURNOVERS
Not that Clemson has had a propensity for turnovers at any time during the year, if it is able to avoid that against USC it will go a long way to handing them a victory.
Carolina will likely need some points handed to them on a platter in order to have a chance at a win. Therefore that's why it would behoove the Tigers to avoid the turnovers.
2. ESTABLISH THE RUN
The odds are USC is going to make a point of trying to take the running game away from the Tigers and make quarterback Kelly Bryant beat it throwing the football.
While Bryant has proven himself to be more than effective throwing the ball, Clemson is a much better offensive unit when it is playing the pass off of the run.
3. MAKE CAROLINA ONE-DIMENSIONAL
If the Tigers are on their A game on defense, they have the ability to make South Carolina a no-dimensional offense. However, if they are able to take away the pass or the run from the Gamecocks, it will still make for a long day.
All things being equal, Clemson would be best served to force USC into a passing situation and let the line go after quarterback Jake Bentley.
4. BE GOOD ON SPECIAL TEAMS
Usually if you're not good on special teams that means you allowed some possible game-altering play. Again, for USC to have a chance to beat the Tigers, it needs at least one game-altering play. That's why Clemson needs to be good here.
5. GOOD OFFENSIVE LINE PLAY
The Tigers' offensive line has been steady for most of the season, and it needs to have another good game against USC.
The Gamecocks' defense has steadily improved as the year has gone along and it can present some problems. If the O line can handle the USC defensive front, it can make for a long day for the Gamecocks.
No. 4 Clemson to face Gamecocks with playoffs at stake
The Associated Press
No. 4 Clemson (10-1, CFP No. 3) at South Carolina (8-3, CFP No. 24), Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Line: Clemson by 14.
Series record: Clemson leads 69-42-4.
WHAT'S AT STAKE?
Clemson's run at another national title hangs in the balance. A South Carolina victory would crush the Tigers' hopes to reach College Football Playoff for a third straight season. The Gamecocks have lost the past three rivalry games and are desperate to end that streak and turn things back in their direction.
South Carolina QB Jake Bentley against Clemson's defensive front. Bentley was battered by the Tigers in the 56-7 loss a year ago, getting sacked twice and throwing for just 41 yards before getting benched. The Tigers front four of ends Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant and tackles Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins have combined for 20.5 of Clemson's ACC-leading 39 sacks.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Clemson: RB Travis Etienne has become the Tigers leading rusher and broke Clemson's mark for rushing touchdowns (11) by a freshman held by C.J. Spiller, who had 10 in 2006. Etienne has run for 681 yards this season.
South Carolina: LB Skai Moore tied the Gamecocks career mark with his 14th interception last week against Wofford. He's also looking to lead South Carolina in tackling for a fourth season, something only 14 players have done in the NCAA. Moore has 73 tackles.
FACTS & FIGURES
Series has been one of runs in recent years: Clemson won four straight (2002-2005), South Carolina won five straight (2009-2013) and now the Tigers have won three. ... Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is seeking his 100th career victory with the Tigers. ... South Carolina is trying for its ninth win of the season after winning nine games combined in 2015 and 2016. ... Clemson has reached double-digit wins in seven straight years. ... The 18 wins combined are the most Clemson and South Carolina have had entering the season finale since they entered with 19 in 2012 and 2013.
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