The countdown is on to Clemson football first in Athens (Georgia) and then back in TigerTown on Sept. 6 (S.C. State).
We’re counting down the Clemson schedule – by strength of schedule – with a quick profile, team I.D. and prediction.
We arrive at South Carolina, the game of interest this season as the rivalry returns to Death Valley. We’ve talked the keys to stopping the streak, but what’s Clemson up against?
Clemson Countdown to Kickoff
12) S.C. State
11) Georgia State
10) Wake Forest
9) N.C. State
6) Georgia Tech
3) South Carolina Gamecocks
Plays Clemson: at Memorial Stadium, Nov. 29, time TBA.
2013 Record: 11-2 (6-2 SEC, second in the East Division).
Coach: Steve Spurrier (219-79 career record, 77-39 at USC).
Offense (2013 ranks): Multiple (Scoring offense: 31, 34.1 PPG; Yards per play: 22, 6.4; Field position advantage: 95).
Defense (2013 ranks): 4-2-5 (Def. yards per play: 60, 5.5; Scoring defense: 12, 20.3 PPG; 3rd down defense: 46, 37.4%).
Returning starters: Offense – 8; Defense – 6; Kickers – 2;
2,800-yard passer(s): N/A; 700-yard rushers/receivers returning: RB Mike Davis (1,183); 40 catches or more: N/A. 80 carries or more: RB Mike Davis (203); 5 sacks or more: N/A; 65 tackles or more: N/A; 8 TFL or more: N/A; 5 PBUs or more: N/A; 70% FG rate: Elliott Fry (83.3).
South Carolina Identity
1. Familiar face - Like their rivals upstate, the Gamecocks lose their winningest quarterback in school history, Connor Shaw (27), ushering in the Dylan Thompson era. While a few SEC schools will be getting to know the Boiling Springs product, Clemson knows full well what he’s capable of as a starter as a steady hand to the ship of the 2012 win in Death Valley – 23-of-41 passing for 310 yards and three touchdowns, adding 38 rushing yards. Thompson has 14 career touchdown throws to five picks, averaging 8.4 yards per pass over 25 games. Shaw’s efficiency will be hard to match (41 TDs to 8 INTs as an upperclassman), but Thompson has shown flashes of being a problem for opposing defenses – and outside of Tiger-killer Bruce Ellington moving on to the next level (49 receptions/775 yards/8 TDs), Thompson has his options for capable targets.
2. Big things coming for Davis? - Former Tiger James Davis’ little brother, Mike, has had two very different seasons so far. The Stone Mountain (Ga.) product had just 13 carries in his first seven games in Columbia, but averaged eight per game to close the regular season for 275 yards and two touchdowns. Last season, he hit triple-digits rushing seven of the first nine games (118 per contest), but finished the season averaging 42 yards and 3.4 yards per carry to total 1,183 yards and 11 touchdowns (limited to 15 carries for 22 yards and a score against Clemson). With a sort of new QB, Davis should figure heavily into the Gamecocks’ gameplan (of course, he would anyway), and it only helps he and Thompson have as experienced an o-line as any in the country.
3. New look d-line - Much of the back-seven returns for South Carolina, but a few notable folks are missing from the d-line: one, a No. 1 NFL draft pick in end Jadeveon Clowney. Also gone is the man in the middle, Kelcy Quarles, who accounted for a team-best 13.5 tackles for loss. South Carolina has had a top-20 total and scoring defense each of the last three years, but that’ll be tough to repeat in year four.
(Way too early) South Carolina pick: 37-34 Tigers.
Analysis: Golden Nugget’s line has Clemson as a 3-point home dog to the Gamecocks, which in general associates to a 45 winning percentage for the team plus-points. That line will surely change in these next few months, but what likely won’t is the sides being even after South Carolina has made the necessary plays five seasons in a row. As we talked in the roundtable, it’s about finishing for Clemson and they should be on a roll and confident with the crowd behind them...but they have to win a fourth quarter for the first time in a longtime in this series. I think Stoudt’s the cool customer to make those clutch plays, but it comes down to turnovers, tempo control and making stops.
Next up: 2) Georgia Bulldogs – Clemson hits the road for its toughest opener…since the last time in Athens (2002, 31-28 loss). A different result in store?