Third-ranked Clemson is in position to get back to the College Football Playoff, but before it can focus on the ACC Championship game, it has to take care of some business closer to home. The Tigers face another potential stumbling block when they visit rival South Carolina on Saturday.
The Gamecocks cracked the top 25 in the College Football Playoff rankings this week following a 31-10 victory over Wofford – their fifth win in six games. South Carolina has won five straight at home, and its fans will be fired up with a chance to end a three-game skid against the Tigers and knock its arch-rivals out of the playoff picture. “If you’re going to have a good season, you’ve got to be able to go on the road and win. Our guys have done a heck of a job of that,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney told reporters. “We all know the emotion that’s tied to this game, and this is one of the best weeks of the year. It’s fun to be a part of it.” The Tigers have won four straight following a 27-24 loss at Syracuse, including a 61-3 rout of The Citadel last week.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Clemson -13.5
ABOUT CLEMSON (10-1): The Tigers’ defense has been outstanding, ranking third nationally in scoring defense (13.9 points) and seventh in total defense (290.2 yards). The offense rolled up 662 total yards last week against The Citadel, including a season-high 479 through the air. Kelly Bryant has passed for 2,154 yards with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions, and he is one of three Tigers who have rushed for at least 600 yards - joining Travis Etienne and Tavien Feaster to comprise a trio that has produced 26 rushing touchdowns.
ABOUT SOUTH CAROLINA (8-3): The Gamecocks have taken on the hard-nosed defensive personality of coach Will Muschamp – they lead the SEC and are tied for 20th nationally with 21 takeaways, which they’ve turned into 76 points. The offense hasn’t been as consistent, but quarterback Jake Bentley has put together a solid campaign, passing for 2,429 yards with 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Fellow sophomore A.J. Turner has emerged as the team’s most reliable running back in recent weeks, rushing for 447 yards in his last five games after totaling 60 in the first six contests.
1. The Gamecocks are one of five FBS teams that have not allowed 30 or more points in a game this season (Alabama, Auburn, Troy and Wisconsin).
2. Clemson’s Deon Cain has caught a pass in 34 consecutive games, while fellow WR Hunter Renfrow has a reception in 25 straight.
3. South Carolina has held 10 of its 11 opponents below their season scoring average, including five who scored at least 10 points below their mark.
PREDICTION: Clemson 27, South Carolina 23