Opponent preview: South Carolina looks to end Clemson's playoff dreams

Jack Veltri11/26/22
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Shane Beamer and Dabo Swinney (Photo by C.J. Driggers)

Last Saturday’s 63-38 win over Tennessee was monumental for South Carolina. But Shane Beamer has been ready to move on to the next challenge.

“Once the players come back in here on Tuesday, it’s full speed ahead on the next opponent,” Beamer said Tuesday. “They went to class on Monday and everybody was patting them on the back. Well, the Tuesday classes are different, so they’re seeing those classmates for the first time since Saturday. So everybody will be patting them on the back and told them the same thing: ‘Politely thank them, but we’re moving on.'”

What’s the Gamecocks’ next challenge? They’ll face No. 8 Clemson on the road Saturday afternoon.

The Tigers are in the midst of another remarkable season. Outside of one dud in South Bend, they’ve been great, winning 10 games and heading to the ACC Championship game next week.

But South Carolina has a chance to ruin Clemson’s playoff hopes with an upset win. It’s an opportunity the players are looking forward to, Beamer said.

“You could argue they’re playing their best football down the stretch,” he said. “Our guys are excited about the challenge and opportunity. It’s a great rivalry. I’ve been blessed to be a part of some of the iconic rivalries in college football during my coaching career and this one’s right there at the top.”

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If the Gamecocks are going to win, they’ll have to play a lot better than they did last year. Clemson won in a rout, 30-0. South Carolina’s defense held DJ Uiagalelei under 100 passing yards but struggled to contain the run. Behind a big night from Will Shipley, the Tigers ran for 265 yards and three touchdowns.

“It was a devastating loss, honestly,” Darius Rush said. “So I mean, we was really upset about it, of course. … They’re a great team. They’re going to run the ball — they’re going to throw the ball just like any other team in this league.”

As Beamer referenced, the Tigers have been playing a lot better lately. Since losing to No. 13 Notre Dame Nov. 5, their offense has put up at least 31 points in each of their last two games. They’re still running the football at a high rate, but Uiagalelei is having a much better season under center.

Uiagalelei has thrown for 2,406 yards with 21 touchdowns and six interceptions. To put it into perspective, he threw more interceptions than touchdowns last year. He’s also an asset running with the football, amassing 494 yards and six touchdowns.

And when all facets of the offense are clicking, it can be a nightmare for opposing defenses.

“I mean, you know what you’re getting from Clemson — they’re not going to change what they do,” Clayton White said. “Spread you out, QB run game, running backs — they have three really good backs — tight ends that move around and you got to be dialed in.”

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South Carolina might have exposed Tennessee’s defense, but it’s going to he hard to replicate that success. Scoring nine touchdowns is hard enough, especially when it took until the eleventh game to breakout. Clemson’s defense is only allowing 20 points per game, giving up more than 30 points twice this year. Most offenses have had trouble stringing together big performances like the one the Gamcocks had last weekend.

“Their front seven is very good — big, physical SEC-type defense in the ACC,” Spencer Rattler said. “So we’re going to have to handle them up front.”

Fortunately for Rattler, he’ll be lining up behind an offensive line that only gave up one sack against the Vols. Rattler threw for 453 yars and six touchdowns — his best game of the season.

Rattler said his o-line was “the MVPs of the game” and knows he’ll need another strong performance from them to take care of Clemson.

“That was one of the biggest factors,” Rattler said. “We protected really well up front. The guys gave me time to throw and get the balls down the field to our receivers to make explosive plays. They block for running backs on key runs. I mean, they did a hell of a job and that kind of went unnoticed in the game from what I’ve seen.”

The Gamecocks have been banged up at running back, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see a similar game plan from Marcus Satterfield. There’s a chance Marshawn Lloyd and Christian Beal-Smith could return Saturday, though.

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Clemson has had to replace four All-ACC first-team defenders, with two at cornerback. Losing those key pieces has shown this season. The Tigers are allowing 214.5 passing yards per game, but still have found ways to win. When they’ve needed a big stop, they’ve gotten it.

“We have to be smart with what we ask our guys to do because those guys can wreck a game really fast,” Satterfield said Wednesday. “We’ve got a lot to improve on from last year and we’ll keep working this week and hopefully we can do that.”

South Carolina will play Clemson at Memorial Stadium at 12 p.m. Saturday afternoon. It’s the regular season finale for both teams. The game will be televised on ABC, with Sean McDonough, Todd Blackledge and Molly McGrath on the call.

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