South Carolina Football: How to watch, storylines, expert picks, predictions vs. Clemson

South Carolina football rival Clemson could be part of a group of ACC teams that are looking to leave the conference. Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports
South Carolina football rival Clemson could be part of a group of ACC teams that are looking to leave the conference. Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s rivalry week. Several of the country’s top rivalries will be played this weekend (and the Egg Bowl between Mississippi State and Ole Miss has already been played). One of the country’s most hostile in-state rivalries will be played at Williams-Brice Stadium this Saturday when Shane Beamer’s South Carolina football team welcomes the rival Clemson Tigers to Columbia.

The Gamecocks are 5-6 and in need of another win to secure bowl eligibility (though, a handful of 5-7 teams are expected to get invitations, as well). Clemson is 7-4 but has a losing mark (3-4) against teams with a winning record. The Gamecocks are 4-5 against teams with more wins than losses.

South Carolina Football vs. Clemson:
How to watch

The Gamecocks and Tigers will be playing on the SECNetwork (and ESPN app) at 7:30 in Williams-Brice Stadium. Taylor Zarzour, Matt Stinchcomb, and Alyssa Lang will be on the call.

The Gamecocks have never won with all three of Zarzour, Stinchcomb, and Lang working one of their games.

South Carolina Football vs. Clemson:
Storylines to watch

There will be plenty of talking points during the Carolina-Clemson game this season, as there usually are.

The Gamecocks’ pursuit of bowl eligibility and Clemson’s hopes of being able to play spoiler will be among the biggest storylines on the day. Last year, as South Carolina football fans remember, the Gamecocks knocked Clemson out of College Football Playoff contention, so the Tigers will be looking for some revenge.

Both teams have 1st-year offensive coordinators. The overall numbers have been pretty similar for both teams, but Clemson has been better running the ball, and the Gamecocks have had a better passing attack. Dowell Loggains probably has outperformed expectations by a small amount, while Garrett Riley probably has underperformed expectations by a small amount.

South Carolina defensive coordinator Clayton White was viewed as a dead man walking just three weeks ago. The Gamecock defense has had its two best games of the year (while utilizing a new 3-3-5 base defense) since then. Would another strong game against Clemson save his job, or will he be gone just like offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield last year?

Spencer Rattler (3074 passing yards) and Xavier Legette (1187 receiving yards) have a chance to make history for the South Carolina football program. Both players have small chances to set single-season records this week, but if USC can make it to a bowl, Dylan Thompson (3564 passing yards) and Alshon Jeffery (1517 receiving yards) might both see their records fall.

Former president Donald Trump will be in attendance at the game. The visit doesn’t matter at all for the game, but it will certainly be a topic of discussion.

Some recruiting visitors will be in town to check out the South Carolina football program, however. Blue chip targets like Solomon Thomas, Marshall Pritchett, and Daniel Hill will be among the visitors.

The Carolina-Clemson matchup is the first one since 2008 in which both teams had at least 4 losses coming into the game.

South Carolina Football vs. Clemson:
What experts are saying

The spread for the Palmetto Bowl has hovered around the touchdown mark since the line opened.

ESPN’s FPI gives Clemson a 65.4% chance to win the game.

The college football team at FoxSports believes the Gamecocks will cover the spread but Clemson will win 28-22.

The Greenville News’ Emily Adams feels the same way, predicting Clemson to win 28-21.

South Carolina Football vs. Clemson:
Official Garnet and Cocky prediction

South Carolina football fans and Clemson fans have been waiting for this weekend all season.

Clemson is bent on revenge after being knocked out of College Football Playoff contention last season, and the Gamecocks need a win to ensure that they play in bowl game this postseason.

Williams-Brice Stadium has hosted three-straight Gamecock wins in November as USC has knocked off Jacksonville State, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky. The biggest test of this stretch of home games is, without a doubt, the Clemson Tigers.

Clemson’s run game, led by Will Shipley and Phil Mafah, could be a big problem for the Gamecocks on Saturday. South Carolina has posted pretty good numbers against the run overall this season, but much of that is because of the problems with the pass defense making throwing the ball more appealing at times.

Clemson is among the college football leaders in lost fumbles. If they continue that trend, the Gamecocks (who have recovered 6 fumbles in their last 3 games), will capitalize. Over the past two seasons, South Carolina football is 10-0 in home games in which they force a turnover. Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik is not an interception machine, but he’s thrown some bad ones this year.

Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler will need to be really good against a stout Clemson defense in order for the Gamecocks to win. Barring a massive deviation from the norm, the anemic USC rushing attack won’t be able to get going against Clemson’s talented front. However, Rattler and his pass-catchers are good enough to make things happen if the offensive line can give them enough time.

Xavier Legette is not a player who can be bottled up very well. At 6’3″ and 225 pounds, he runs a sub-4.4 in the 40, and Gamecock fans have seen all season what he can if given just an inch of space. However, he will have lots of attention on him on Saturday. Secondary playmakers like Josh Simon, Nyck Harbor, and Ahmarean Brown will have to play well to give the ‘Cocks a chance.

A key matchup in this game will be between the Clemson wide receiver group and the South Carolina secondary. Beaux Collins will miss the game after tearing his plantar fascia, but Tyler Brown and Antonio Williams (who both can operate in the slot) will have plenty of opportunities to make plays against a weak pass defense from the Gamecocks.

Things have gotten better on defense since defense coordinator Clayton White has switched to a primary 3-3-5, but there are still some coverage issues for the Gamecocks, especially in man. Marcellas Dial is pretty good on an island, but the other DBs have struggled when left alone, and the Carolina safeties (all who can tackle well in run-support) are less than elite on the backend.

Another improvement in the 3-3-5 has been seen in USC’s pass rush. If the Gamecocks can muster some pressure on Klubnik, the young quarterback might make some mistakes. If he has all day to throw, it could be a long day for the Gamecock D.

Frankly, this game seems like it will be one where South Carolina has a legitimate chance to win. However, the lack of run game paired with struggling pass protection from the Gamecock offensive line could be the undoing of Dowell Loggains’ offense.

In a game that feels like it should be won, the most likely outcome is probably a close loss in which the defense struggles just enough to allow Clemson to find the end zone, making it too much for the Gamecock offense to keep up against an elite Tiger defense.

879. 17. 850. Prediction. 24

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