COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A year has come and gone and rivalry week has returned for the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Clemson Tigers.
Like last year, the Tigers find themselves in the hunt for a national championship while the Gamecocks will have a chance to spoil those plans. This year, the Gamecocks say they've put that setback behind them and are focused on beating their rivals. This year, they'll try to do it in front of their home fans.
"I expect it to be as crazy as it's ever been here," said Gamecocks senior linebacker Skai Moore. "From before kickoff to when we're out there warming up to the end of the game, I expect the atmosphere to be just insane like it's been. I don't expect anything to change."
The Gamecocks will be charged with stopping a Clemson offense that averages a little over 35 points per game with Kelly Bryant as the catalyst for the Tigers offense. The junior quarterback has completed just over 66 percent of his passes for 2,154 yards and 10 touchdowns. He's also the team's third-leading rusher with 613 yards and 10 touchdowns.
"The year Kelly Bryant has had has been outstanding," said Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp. "I'm sure for them, the uncertainty going into the year of how he would perform and he has played really good football for them. (He has) 154 carries, not all designed quarterback runs. He creates a lot of issues for you in off-rhythm plays. He's had 300 attempts and he's completed 66 percent of his passes. He really plays good football. You go back and look at Virginia Tech and several other games where he's making some plays, whether he's throwing it or running it. He's really playing good football."
The Tigers have several weapons to utilize offensively. In their run game, Clemson relies on freshman Travis Etienne and sophomore Tavien Feaster. Combined, the speedsters have each rushed for over 600 yards while Etienne leads the team with 11 rushing touchdowns. With Bryant also on the field as an additional runner, the Gamecocks will have to find a way to keep the Tigers' ground game contained.
"I always talk in terms of keeping your head in your gap, maintaining gap control and disengaging and getting off blocks," said Muschamp. "They do a really nice job, and when Kelly (Bryant) is at quarterback, they create an extra gap for you in the run game. Those are all situations that you have to be able to try and gain an extra hat in the run game and borrow a guy from another side, stunt some things and create some disruption as best as you can."
As for South Carolina's run game, the Gamecocks hope to have success against a Clemson defense that surrenders an average of about 116 yards per game. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks average close about 131 yards per contest. For Carolina, it'll be important to have success in this department in order to help the offense thrive.
"You don't want to get in a one-dimensional game with this group," Muschamp said. "We did a year ago. They do a really good job of pressuring the quarterback, and if they know you're going to be in a throw situation the entire game, it's going to be a long day. You've got to stay balanced. You have to be hardheaded in the run game a little bit. When you play a front like this, you're not always going to hit a 20-yard run every time you run it. You've got to be able to stay patient in the run game. You can't get one-dimensional."
The Tigers are led by graduate linebacker Dorian O'Daniel with 90 tackles this season. Also, Clemson leans on the duo of Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant. Together, the two defensive ends have 15 sacks (7.5 each) while Bryant has 14.5 tackles for loss to his credit, a half more than Ferrell.
"I think their defensive front is really good," said Gamecocks senior offensive lineman Cory Helms. "They've got two good guys in the middle and some good edge rushers on the outside. They're definitely very solid up front."
South Carolina hosts Clemson at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium. The game can be seen on ESPN.
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