Just posted a new blog about Connor Shaw’s legacy at USC over at Chat Sports. Make sure you go check it out!
Just posted a new blog about Connor Shaw’s legacy at USC over at Chat Sports. Make sure you go check it out!
This isn’t your Alabama-Auburn, Ohio State-Michigan, or even Southern Cal-UCLA. It’s not a game that is going to decide who wins their respective conference, much less have any bearing on the National Championship picture.
But for fans of South Carolina and Clemson, all of that is irrelevant. It means everything.
At 7:00 on Saturday night, the 6th ranked Tigers will travel to Columbia to face the 10th ranked Gamecocks. South Carolina currently holds the longest home winning streak in the country, adding its 17th straight in last weekend’s lopsided victory against Coastal Carolina.
While the rivalry doesn’t have quite the same luster on a national scale as the Iron Bowl or some other high profile rivalry games, it means everything within the confines of the Palmetto State. Everything in the past means nothing come kickoff Saturday night.
Clemson will be trying to end a 4-game skid against the Gamecocks. The last time the Tigers beat South Carolina (31-14 in 2008) Barack Obama had just won his first election for President, Apple had just released the iPhone 3g, and Miley Cyrus was still Hannah Montana. Clemson will be trying to beat an SEC opponent for their third time in a row, continuing a streak that includes a bowl win last year against LSU and an opening day win this year against Georgia. Clemson became the first team outside of the SEC to win two consecutive games against SEC opponents with their win over Georgia, and they would love nothing more than to continue that streak against their rivals.
South Carolina will be trying to extend their win streak against Clemson to five, something they have never done since the rivalry began in 1896. And while all focus will be on the field for the players, fans will be glued to their phones throughout, keeping up with what is going on in the other Columbia. If Texas A&M were to beat Missouri, South Carolina will win the SEC East and head to Atlanta. Saturday night could line up as the perfect storm for the Gamecocks, or the perfect disaster.
This game has everything you would want in a rivalry. Both teams have record-setting quarterbacks, star defensive players, and top-ten rankings. It also pairs two coaches against each other that probably won’t be on each other’s Christmas card lists. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney shared his dislike for the Gamecocks in what has become an infamous rant, claiming that “the real USC is in California and the real Carolina is in Chapel Hill”. South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier has never been one to shy away from a quick jab, including referring to Swinney as that “coach of the team in the upstate that used to beat us a lot but doesn’t beat us much anymore”.
And for fans of both teams, this game is about much more than rankings and stats and the final score. It’s about being able to go to work everyday for a year without having to deal with listening to that other team gloat. It’s about not losing a bet and having to wear that horrible jersey of the other school. It’s about being able to tell all of your friends how much better your team is than theirs. It’s about bragging rights, loyalty, and pride.
The South Carolina-Clemson rivalry is more than just a game. It’s more than a mere 60 minutes of football played on a field once a year. It’s more than just simply one team winning and one team losing. It’s more than the coaches, the players, the fans.
It’s a way of life.
I’ve posted a blog to Chat Sports previewing the upcoming game Saturday night between the Florida Gators and the USC Gamecocks. Check it out!
At the end of the 3rd quarter last night in Columbia, Missouri, Gamecock fans’ hopes of returning to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game were all but dead.
But one quarter and two overtime periods later, senior quarterback Connor Shaw had brought the Gamecocks back from the dead and put them right back into the SEC East race.
With a loss last night, the Gamecocks would have all but been eliminated from contention. They would have been three games behind Missouri and one behind Georgia, needing both teams to lose multiple games in order to get to Atlanta.
But thanks to the heroics of Shaw and a missed chip-shot field goal by Missouri’s Andrew Bagget, the Gamecocks are right back in the hunt for a division championship and only need a little bit of help to get there.
The Gamecocks currently sit one game behind Missouri in the standings, and own the same record in the loss column as Georgia and Florida, although Georgia owns the head to head tie breaker with USC.
Missouri: 7-1 (3-1)
S. Carolina: 6-2 (4-2)
Georgia: 4-3 (3-2)
Florida: 4-3 (3-2)
South Carolina has two remaining SEC games left, next Saturday against Mississippi State and Nov. 16th against Florida, both at home.
Missouri still has four SEC games left: next weekend against Tennessee, Nov. 9th at Kentucky, Nov. 23th at Mississippi, and Nov. 30th at home against Texas A&M.
Georgia plays Florida next weekend in Jacksonville, at Auburn on Nov. 16th, and hosts Kentucky on Nov. 23rd.
After facing Georgia in Jacksonville, the Gators play at home against Vanderbilt before traveling to South Carolina on Nov. 16th.
While the Gamecocks do not quite control their own destiny, they are in a good position to get back to Atlanta.
First, Carolina must win their remaining two SEC games. This would obviously put the Gamecocks ahead of Florida, eliminating the Gators. USC is not eliminated if they were to drop one, but it would be very difficult.
The easiest scenario would be for Georgia to lose one of its remaining games and Missouri to lose at least one more as well. Even if Missouri and South Carolina finish with the same record, the Gamecocks would win the east because they beat Missouri.
If Georgia wins out, then the Gamecocks would have to hope for Missouri to lose to either Tennessee or Kentucky. If all three teams finish with the same conference record but Mizzou’s second loss were to Ole Miss or Texas A&M, then the Tigers would win the east because they would have the best record within the division (both Georgia and South Carolina would have two losses within the division).
If all three teams finish tied and all have two losses within the division, then things get tricky. Assuming that all 3 teams finish 10-2 overall, then there are multiple tie-breakers to decide a champion, including a scenario where the highest ranked BCS team would win it if they are at least five spots ahead of the team that beat them. A complete list of all the tie breakers can be found at the link below:
The good news for Gamecock fans is that both Missouri and Georgia have very tough games remaining on their conference slate. Missouri will have a difficult time getting past both Ole Miss in Oxford and Johnny Football and the Aggies to finish up the season. While Georgia may get by Florida, they will have a tough time matching up with Auburn’s offense.
So no, the Gamecocks have not won the east yet. But they took a huge step forward with last night’s comeback. Gamecock fans, don’t make reservations just yet. But make sure you don’t make plans for December 7th, unless they involve the Georgia Dome.
South Carolina @ Georgia – September 7 – 4:30 – ESPN
In the most highly anticipated matchup of the college football weekend, sixth ranked South Carolina travels to Athens, Georgia to take on the 12th ranked Bulldogs between the Hedges. The Gamecocks will be looking to win two straight in Athens for the first time since joining the SEC in 1992 (won 45-42 in 2011) and will be looking for their fourth straight win over Georgia after last year’s strong performance that resulted in a 35-7 win in Columbia.
The Bulldogs, coming off a season in which they were five yards away from a trip to play for the National Championship, are coming off a week 1 loss at Clemson in which their defense failed to ever stop Tajh Boyd and the Tiger’s high-powered offense. The Bulldogs must improve in a variety of areas if they hope to claim an early spot in the competitive SEC East.
Senior quarterback Aaron Murray has been criticized for his poor play in big games (other than last year’s SEC Championship in Atlanta) and last week’s performance against Clemson did nothing to improve that image. Although he completed 69 percent of his passes against a young Clemson defense, Murray seemed off for the majority of the night as the Georgia offense only converted 4 of 14 third downs.
The running game, led by Todd Gurley, is what Georgia is going to continue to rely on against a USC defense that held North Carolina to only 99 yards on the ground and 2.8 yards/rush. Gurley was Georgia’s shining light against Clemson, rushing for 158 yards and 2 touchdowns, including a 75 yard TD run. Gurley, along with sophomore Keith Marshall, will look for some sort of revenge after being held to 76 yards combined last year in Columbia.
Defensively, the return of safety Josh Harvey-Clemons should boost a secondary that allowed Tajh Boyd to throw 277 yards and 3 touchdowns last week. The defensive unit most improve drastically against the run as well after giving up nearly 200 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Tigers.
What South Carolina will have to do to win
In their season opener, the Gamecocks were never in doubt against North Carolina, opening up an early 17 point lead and never looking back. Senior quarterback Connor Shaw, while not playing great, played well enough to lead the offense to 27 points, including an early 65-yard-touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Shaq Roland.
South Carolina should be able to run the ball with consistency behind their large offensive line, although they will most likely be without starting center Cody Waldrop. Waldrop sprained his foot in last week’s win against North Carolina and has not been able to practice all week, meaning redshirt freshman Clayton Stadnik will most likely see his first career start. A consistent running game behind back Mike Davis and the mobility of Shaw will be key if the Gamecocks hope to start the year 2-0.
Defensively, the Gamecocks will be able to get pressure on Murray all game. Jadeveon Clowney has listened to the national media talk about how he took plays off and didn’t play well against the Tarheels, and he will be ready to go full force Saturday. In the secondary, Victor Hampton should be good to go after getting banged up in week one, which bodes well for a defense that held NC to 10 points.
How it will end up
The odds are against the Gamecocks for the mere fact that it is difficult to beat anyone in the SEC four times in a row. Yet the talent is with them, and it will show up between the hedges. The Gamecocks will be able to control the clock by keeping the ball on the ground, which will be able to open up plays downfield for Shaw. Georgia will have its big plays, but it will be difficult for Murray to ever feel comfortable with the pressure from the Gamecock’s defensive line. South Carolina will move to 2-0 on the year and take an early stronghold on the SEC East.
Final: South Carolina 24, Georgia 14
The South Carolina Gamecocks are in the midst of a run that has never been matched in their program’s history. Back-to-back 11 win seasons, 31 wins in three years, and 4 straight wins against in-state rival Clemson have propelled the Gamecocks from the bottom of the college football world to where no one thought they would ever be: an SEC power. With a returning nucleus of key players such as Heisman hopeful Jadeveon Clowney, quarterbacks Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson, and wide receiver Bruce Ellington, the Gamecocks have again found themselves in the preseason top 10. Lee Corso once said that Steve Spurrier will never win the SEC at South Carolina, yet the “Ole Ball Coach” has the personnel, the attitude, and the schedule to make a serious run. Over the next two weeks leading up to the season opener against North Carolina, I will preview all 12 of the Gamecocks’ regular season games, beginning with the battle with the Tarheels on August 29th.
North Carolina @ South Carolina – August 29th – 6:00 – ESPN
In the first meeting since South Carolina escaped Chapel Hill with a 21-15 in 2008 (the Gamecocks led 21-3 at halftime before North Carolina made things interesting late), North Carolina travels to Columbia to open the 2013 NCAA football season in front of a national television audience on ESPN.
The Tar Heels, coming off an 8-4 season in which they would have represented the Coastal division in the ACC Championship game if not for penalties issued due to infractions from the 2010 season, hope to improve under second year coach Larry Fedora. North Carolina lost three games last year by a combined 9 points, yet have lost two key offensive players, running back Giovani Bernard and guard Jonathan Cooper. Cooper anchored an offensive line that allowed Bernard to rush for 1228 yards and 12 TD’s, while Bernard added 5 receiving TD’s and returned two punts to the end zone.
But for all the Tar heels lose in the running game, they return in their passing game. Senior Bryn Renner is coming off of a 28 TD/7 INT year and was a third team preseason ACC selection. With preseason first team ACC tight end Eric Ebron as his primary target, Renner will look to continue off of last year’s success and start off quickly against a USC defense that brings in one of the most dynamic players in the country in DE Jadeveon Clowney.
Defensively, the Tarheels lose DT Sylvester Williams and LB Kevin Reddick, yet return all four starters to a secondary that picked off 14 passes in 2012. North Carolina will have to find playmakers though and improve after giving up 389 yards per game in 2012.
What South Carolina will have to do to win
Defensively, South Carolina must find a way to stop the passing game of UNC and get pressure on Renner. The Gamecock’s young linebacking core will be tested early, but the defensive line, anchored by Jadeveon Clowney, must be quick off the line to counteract a UNC passing game that will focus on getting the ball out quickly.
Offensively, the Gamecocks shouldn’t have any issues moving the ball downfield. While UNC does return all four starters in the secondary, an inexperience defensive line and linebacking core should allow for the Gamecocks running back duo of Brandon Wilds and Mike Davis to start off strong as they look to replace Marcus Lattimore. Both Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson will see playing time, and both should be able to find some holes in a defense that gave up close to 400 yards in 2012.
How it will end up
The Tarheels will try everything they can to prove they can hang with the other Carolina from the SEC. A confident Renner will be able to find some success early, but that won’t be enough to stop Clowney and company. And the Gamecock offense should be able to find some success against the UNC defense. It will be close throughout the first half, but the Gamecocks will pull away late to start 2013 1-0.
Final: South Carolina 34, North Carolina 17
You would be hard pressed to find a more talented and more talked about defensive player in college football than South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. From 4.5 sacks against Clemson to “The Hit”, Clowney has quickly become a household name. Can Clowney do what hasn’t been done since 1997, when Charles Woodson became the first primarily defensive player to win the coveted Heisman trophy? Here’s three reason why you will see Clowney in New York this December:
1. There is no front runner coming into the season
For a defensive player to even be considered for what has primarily been an offensive award, there has to be a combination of incredible stats and no stand out on offense. In the 77 years that the trophy has been presented to the best player in college football, there have only been 17 defensive players that have finished in the top 5 of voting, and only 3 in the past 22 years. But unlike previous years, there is no offensive front runner coming into the 2013 season. 2012 saw Matt Barkley garner all of the preseason attention, while 2011 was the year of Andrew Luck. Although last years winner, Johnny Manziel, will be returning to Texas A&M this year, there is no offensive player that is creating a large amount of buzz coming into the season, leaving the door open for a defensive player such as Clowney.
2. He already has his Heisman moment
From Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary pass that propelled Boston College past Miami in 1984 to Cam Newton’s 49-yard super human TD run against LSU in 2010, each Heisman winner has had his own “Heisman moment”. And for Clowney, his Heisman moment already occurred:
For Clowney, one play on the first day of this year has created all of the preseason buzz he needs. Thanks to a 45-time run as the “Best of the Best” play on ESPN’s Sportscenter, Clowney’s decapitating hit of Michigan’s Vincent Smith has cemented him as a household name and Heisman favorite.
3. South Carolina’s Defensive Line won’t allow for Clowney to be double teamed
It’s no question that Clowney will garner numerous double teams and various schemes to try to stop him. And while some teams may be able to stop him for a play here or there, South Carolina’s strong defensive line won’t allow teams to solely focus on Clowney. Senior Chaz Sutton, Junior J.T. Surratt, and Junior Kelcy Quarles anchor a USC defensive line that ranked 6th in the country in sacks in 2012. Teams will not be able to focus solely on Clowney, which will allow him to dominate.
And three reasons why you will not see Clowney in New York:
1. A “good” offensive player will have a “great” season
While there is no clear offensive front runner for the Heisman, there are various offensive stand outs that could possibly make a case for themselves. While Johnny Manziel has had an off season he would rather forget, he is still coming off a Heisman season in which he had over 5,000 all purpose yards and threw for 26 touchdowns. Clemson’s Tajh Boyd is coming off a year in which he threw for 36 TD’s, 3896 yards, and enters 2013 with an extremely talented group of skill players around him. Alabama’s AJ McCarron has seemed to fly under the radar, leading his team to two straight national championships, throwing for 30 TD’s and only 3 INT. And other players such as Ohio State’s Braxton Miller and Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater have the skill and firepower to make Heisman cases for themselves.
2. Everyone team will scheme specifically for him
Jadeveon Clowney has never flown under the radar. Since coming out of high school as the #1 national recruit and announcing his commitment to South Carolina on national TV, Clowney has never been quite out of the spotlight. But thanks to “The Hit” and all of the media attention he has received since, every team South Carolina plays this season will have a specific scheme for Clowney and know exactly where he is on every play. Whether they will actually be able to stop him is an entirely different question. But the fact is that from North Carolina on August 29th to Clemson on November 30th, every team will do whatever it takes to not allow him to single handedly beat them.
3. Clowney will fail to live up to his own expectations
If any defensive player finished a game with 7 tackles and 1 sack, it would be considered a great game. But would those numbers be considered a great game for a player who had 4.5 sacks against in-state rival Clemson in 2012 and preserved a USC win against Tennessee with a late game sack of Tyler Bray? Clowney has set the bar astronomically high for himself and will have to improve on his 2012 numbers (13 sacks, 23.5 tackles for a loss). For Clowney to garner an invitation to New York, he will have threaten the single season record for sacks (24 by Terrell Suggs in 2004) as well as have more game-changing moments to build off of his “Heisman moment” Outback Bowl hit.