The South Carolina football team will look to defeat its rival and earn bowl eligibility Saturday when it welcomes Clemson for a make or break game under the lights of Willams-Brice Stadium.
The Gamecocks will attempt to defeat Clemson for the second year in a row after beating the Tigers 31-30 in Death Valley last season. A victory would extend the team’s current win streak to four games and qualify the Gamecocks for postseason play.
The Daily Gamecock connected with Luke Beard, an assistant sports editor at The Tiger, to learn more about the Clemson football team ahead of a game that will define the rest of South Carolina’s season.
The Daily Gamecock: What is the atmosphere around Clemson’s program like entering the final week of the regular season?
Luke Beard: “I feel like the program's super confident right now. Everyone feels like Clemson's hit a hot streak. Like (Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney) said, it's time to buy into stocks for Clemson. It feels like everything's kind of returning back to the team that the fan base is used to. The offense has kind of found their stride. The defense ... they've looked complete the entire season.”
What has been the biggest reason for Clemson's three-game win streak, including two against ranked opponents?
“Getting back home helps a lot. They were on a little road trip for a little bit there. When the team got back home, it felt like everyone was a lot more confident. I feel like the offense has completely kind of turned around this season from where they were at early on, and they've propelled the team.”
“(Wide receiver) Tyler Brown being a freshman, he stepped up in a role as the No. 1 receiver, and he hasn't disappointed yet.”
What was the main cause of the Tigers' struggles early this season?
“Turnovers were really the main emphasis that Clemson needed to work on from the beginning of the season — a lot of fumbles in the red zone that completely flipped things.”
“There are moments with the Miami game that really affected Clemson. That Duke game, especially, was another one where Clemson would get in the red zone and keep fumbling the ball. And it was just fumbles off of dropped handoffs and simple plays that you work on all the time in practice, and it happened multiple times over and in a lot of the losses that occurred for Clemson. It affected the playing.”
How motivated do you think the Tigers are after last year? What would a win here mean for South Carolina’s postseason eligibility?
“I feel like this Clemson team would love to knock Carolina out of bowl eligibility. I feel like that's definitely a motivating factor. But I feel like winning the state again, bringing the state back to Clemson is definitely the emphasis. That's one of the key points for the Clemson team right now after a season where they kind of underperformed."
"Winning against South Carolina would kind of cap off a good winning streak. And knocking them out of bowl eligibility is huge for the Tigers, especially how South Carolina knocked them out of the playoff contention last season. That's definitely a factor that'll make Clemson that much hungrier to beat the South Carolina team.”
What would South Carolina have to do to walk away with a win?
“Quarterback play definitely helps. (Redshirt senior quarterback) Spencer Rattler is one of the premier quarterbacks in all of college football, and he has consistently been able to prove himself against some really good defenses, so I think he's a key factor for this game. If he plays well, I think it would definitely help South Carolina. And if the offensive line for South Carolina can play well against this defensive line that's been able to dominate for Clemson, that'll definitely help South Carolina's chances.”
What's your score prediction?
“I'm going to go with Clemson winning. I'll say about 38-14. I feel like Clemson has definitely improved this season, and they are a lot hungrier now than I think they were last season. I felt like the team kind of overlooked South Carolina. They were kind of anticipating the ACC Championship game and the playoffs, but this season, they don't.”
“So I think the Tigers will go into Columbia hungry, and they'll really want to pull out a win.”