Tag:Connor Shaw
Posted on: January 2, 2012 4:29 pm
Edited on: January 5, 2012 12:22 pm
 

QUICK HITS: South Carolina 30, Nebraska 13

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Bowl games haven't been Steve Spurrier's specialty at South Carolina -- he was just 1-4 with the Gamecocks entering Monday's game -- but thanks to another big game from Connor Shaw and a huge play from Alshon Jeffery to close the first half, that might have changed at the Capital One Bowl. The Gamecocks trailed 13-9 when Shaw dialed up a Hail Mary in Jeffery's direction to end the second quarter, and the big junior -- likely playing in his final game as a collegian -- hauled it in and dove into the end zone (see above) for a 16-13 halftime lead.

With Shaw throwing for an efficient 229 yards (13.5 per attempt) and running for 42 more, that was all the momentum the Gamecocks would need. Taylor Martinez was entirely bottled up in the second half, finishing with just 153 total yards of offense (117 passing, 36 rushing) and unable to get his team on the scoreboard over the final two quarters.

WHY SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Because with Martinez always erratic in the pass game and the dynamic Gamecock front always likely to cause some problems with the Husker ground game, Nebraska couldn't afford to waste opportunities--especially ones that could have put them in firm control of the game. But that's precisely what they did late in the first half, when Ameer Abdullah picked up a first down on a 3rd-and-3 from the Gamecock 8, his team on the verge of extending their 13-9 lead to double-digits ... and then got hit by D.J. Swearinger and fumbled the ball away.

The Huskers could have retaken the lead after Jeffery's Hail Mary, driving to a first-and-goal at the Carolina 8 on their first drive of the third quarter. First down: crazy pass from Martinez for loss of 8. Second: rush for 5. Third: delay of game. Then a screen for a loss of 2. Fourth: a missed 35-yard field goal, Brett Maher's first miss from under 40 this season. The Huskers would go on to commit four penalties on their next drive and never threatened again. The Gamecocks were the better team, but if Nebraska had been able to keep their composure in the red zon, they could have at least stayed competitive.

WHEN SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Taking over up 23-13 with just over 9 minutes to play, Shaw led the Gamecocks on a methodical, clock-killing march that would eventually burn off more than 6 minutes and end with a Kenny Miles touchdown, putting the game entirely out of the Huskers' reach.

THAT WAS CRAZY: If this was indeed the final game for Jeffery and star Nebraska corner Alfonzo Dennard, their careers didn't end the way either player would have liked. The pair scuffled after a third-quarter play, with Dennard throwing a series of punches and Jeffery delivering a two-handed shove to Dennard's facemask; both players were ejected. And though Jeffery is the bigger name nationally, the Huskers seemed to suffer more from Dennard's ejection, their secondary losing its way over the remainder of the game.

WHAT SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Their 11th game of the season, for the first time in school history. Though the Gamecocks were always aiming for a repeat trip to the SEC title game, 11-2 with Shaw and Marcus Lattimore returning isn't a bad consolation.

WHAT NEBRASKA LOST: Their fourth game of the 2011 campaign, wrapping up the Huskers' first year in the Big Ten at 9-4. Bo Pelini has now lost his last two bowl games.

FINAL GRADE: The first half had the makings of a classic, with both teams exchanging big plays and long drives, capped by the Hail Mary lightning bolt. But the second was a major letdown, with the Huskers totally unabe to get out of their own way and Carolina slowly squeezing the life out of Nebraska's chances--and the game. B-.

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Posted on: December 30, 2011 9:19 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Capital One Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

SOUTH CAROLINA WILL WIN IF: Connor Shaw plays in Orlando the way he has back home at Brice-Williams Stadium. With Marcus Lattimore out and Alshon Jeffery only narrowly showing up on the side of a milk carton, Shaw emerged as the Gamecocks No. 1 offensive threat down the stretch, peaking in the season finale vs. Clemson with a 14-of-20, 210-yard, 3 TD, no pick, 107 rushing yard MVP performance. But that wasn't all that unusual for Shaw when it came to playing in Columbia; in the four games he played at home (plus a cameo against Vanderbilt), Shaw was 63-for-91 (69 percent) for 9.1 yards an attempt and a 10-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio, not to mention 341 of his 482 rushing yards. Away from Brice-Williams? Shaw was 49-of-80 (61 percent) for 4.8 yards an attempt and a 2-to-4 TD-to-INT ratio. 

Nebraska has struggled mightily with offenses led by dual-threat quarterbacks like Shaw, giving up 418 yards to Denard Robinson's Michigan, 468 to Dan Persa's Northwestern, 486 to Russell Wilson's Wisconsin. If Shaw treats the neutral Citrus Bowl like a home venue, he should have more than enough leeway from the Huskers D to propel the Gamecocks to victory. If he has a relapse of those road blues, though, it's not like there's a whole lot else on the Gamecock offense to save him.

NEBRASKA WILL WIN IF: they can open up some running holes. This is easier said than done, of course; the Gamecocks boast a veteran senior starter at DT in Travian Robertson and arguably the nation's best set of defensive ends in Melvin Ingram, Devin Taylor, and Jadeveon Clowney. But Carolina still finished just 44th in rush defense nationally and sixth in the SEC, giving up 130 yards or more on the ground in seven different games. The option attacks of Navy and the Citadel, in particular, gave them fits, a promising development for the Huskers' read option looks with Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead.

But if Martinez and Burkhead can't get it going -- if Robertson can't be moved out of the middle, if Ingram, Taylor and Clowney blow up the option -- the Huskers will be in trouble. Martinez's struggles as a passer meant that when Nebraska ran for 180 yards or more, they were a perfect 9-0. When they didn't? They went an equally imperfect 0-3. Where the Huskers are concerned, it's go nuts on the ground, or go bust.

THE X-FACTOR: Whether or not Carolina wants to play this game. For all the good Steve Spurrier has done at South Carolina, he hasn't yet solved the dilemma of how to get his Gamecocks ready for the postseason; he's 1-4 with the 'Cocks overall and winless against BCS competition, with the last three losses coming by an average of 14.3 points. It goes more-or-less without saying that even with this being Spurrier's first 10-win team with Carolina, they're still nowhere good enough to no-show and still beat a nine-win Big Ten team like Nebraska.

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Posted on: November 27, 2011 12:59 am
 

SEC Winners and Losers, Week 13

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



WINNER: The Rematch. Before LSU and Alabama ever took the field Nov. 5, one of the hottest topics in college football was already whether the Tigers and Tide were so far out in front of the rest of the field that they could -- and maybe should -- meet again in New Orleans for the BCS championship. At that point, it seemed like outsized SEC hubris--not only did LSU and Alabama have to run the rest of the respective tables, but somewhere in the neighborhood of half a dozen teams had to suffer major upset losses.

But however you feel about the Tigers and Tide throwing out the results of their first experiment and starting from scratch for almost all the marbles (their loss in Tuscaloosa will at least cost the Tide a shot at an SEC title), the arguments at this stage are
all but academic; regardless of the results of championship weekend, LSU and Alabama are such clearcut Nos. 1 and 2 in the BCS standings that they'll almost certainly stay that way even if LSU falls to Georgia in Atlanta this Saturday. The tables have been run, right up through Friday's rout of Arkansas by the Tigers and Alabama's bludgeoning of Auburn Saturday. The half-dozen teams have suffered those upsets. Whatever hope Oklahoma State had of getting the nod from voters was probably extinguished by the overwhelming matter in which LSU and Alabama won. It's done.

LOSERS: SEC haters. All of which means the SEC is going to win its sixth consecutive national championship. And while maybe the league has gotten a little too much credit for that achievement -- the conference's reputation has helped mask that behind the LSU/Alabama/Arkansas/Georgia triumvirate, there's precious little real quality -- is anyone really going to argue that the Tigers and Tide aren't the nation's two best teams right now? That the season shouldn't end with one team or the other hoisting the crystal football? It ain't bragging if you can back it up, and when it comes to assembling national title-caliber teams, the SEC has backed it up. Again. Sorry, rest of the country.

WINNER: James Franklin. Since George MacIntyre left the Vanderbilt head coaching job in 1985, five different Commodores head coaches came and went with a combined 17 seasons in Nashville ... and no bowl berths. The one coach who has taken Vandy to a bowl game since MacIntyre managed it in 1982, Bobby Johnson, did it just once in one (utterly charmed) season out of eight. So how fantastic of a job has Franklin done to not only take the 'Dores to a bowl, not only do it in his first season, but do it in out-and-out style, with a 41-7 road win over Wake Forest that cemented that Vandy -- with its 0-4 record in one-possession SEC games -- was better than its record?

A fantastic enough of a job that we'll call it a shame if Les Miles wins the SEC Coach of the Year in unanimous fashion. Miles deserves the award ... but Franklin deserves to be part of the conversation.

LOSER: Derek Dooley. We've picked on Dooley a couple of times in Winners and Losers recently, and take no joy in singling him out again. But facts are facts: if we were ranking the 11 employed SEC coaches in terms of who we'd want to fill a hypothetical SEC coaching vacancy starting tomorrow, Dooley would be ranked dead last, 11th out of 11. 

The contrast Saturday vs. Kentucky couldn't be starker. With his offense struggling horrifically, Joker Phillips pulled the trigger on a crazy scheme change, moved Matt Roark to quarterback, gave up on the pass entirely ... and won the game. With his offense struggling horrifically, Dooley declared "steady as she goes" ... and will be at home for the bowl season. 

WINNER: Connor Shaw. It was only four games ago that Shaw took his Gamecocks into Knoxville and threw for fewer than 100 yards, just 4.8 yards an attempt, and an even 1-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio as the running game and defense did all the heavy lifting. Against Clemson, it was Shaw doing nearly all the lifting, and then some. In the air the sophomore hit 14-of-20 for 10.5 yards an attempt and a three-to-zero TD-to-INT ratio, but he was even more dangerous on the ground: 19 carries, 108 yards, and another touchdown. No one's about to mistake Shaw for Cam Newton, but if the only comparison you made was Shaw's stat line from Saturday to one from Newton's last season ... well then, you, might be forgiven. 

LOSER: The overall state of quarterbacking in the SEC. Oh, AJ McCarron was excellent vs. Auburn, Aaron Murray deadly vs. Georgia Tech, and Shaw you just read about. But in the nether regions of the conference ... yeesh. Clint Moseley was disastrous for Auburn vs. the Tide, and seemed to have lost the confidence of a subdued Gus Malzahn. John Brantley threw three first-half interceptions before being sidelined with a concussion, whereupon Jacoby Brissett entered to throw a pick-six. Tyler Bray threw one 53-yard touchdown bomb ... and on his other 37 passes averaged just 4.4 yards a pass attempt and tossed a pair of interceptions. Ole Miss's Barry Brunetti was barely there. And Kentucky, of course, didn't even use a quarterback.

Lots of SEC defenses have outstanding pass defense numbers. Some of that is because they are good. Much of that, though, is because of play like the above. 

WINNER: the Ole Miss Rebels. Not on the field, of course; on the field, the Rebels lost their third straight to their in-state archrivals at Mississippi State in a 31-3 laugher that was never competitive. But on the plus side, this apocalyptic 2-10, 0-8 SEC season is finally, mercifully over and the search for a replacement for Houston Nutt can start in earnest. And that is the best thing that's happened for the Rebels in weeks.

LOSER: the Florida Gators. Unlike the Rebels, Will Muschamp's team will head to a bowl at 6-6. And Muschamp will no doubt say that that will give him and his staff a key opportunity to develop his young, still scheme-adjusting team during postseason practice. But the abject misery of the Gators' offensive showing against Florida State -- 21 points essentially yielded on interceptions to 7 points scored -- and flood of injuries made the team  look for all the world like one that would simply welcome the end of this punishing season. They'll trod on to the Music City Bowl or something similar, but we can't imagine anyone in Gainesville is all that excited about it.

Posted on: November 26, 2011 11:17 pm
 

QUICK HITS: South Carolina 34, Clemson 13

Posted by Chip Patterson

SOUTH CAROLINA WON. For the first time since 1968-1970, South Carolina claimed their third straight victory in the in-state rivalry with Clemson thanks to a convincing 34-13 win. Sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw put together arguably the most complete performance of his young career, completing 14 of 20 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns through the air while adding 108 yards rushing and a touchdown on the ground.

HOW SOUTH CAROLINA WON: South Carolina started the game offensively by taking body shots at Clemson's defense. Draws, dives, and zone reads accounted for a majority of the early play calls, with Spurrier sparingly allowing Shaw to take a shot downfield. But Shaw began to open up Clemson's defense with his ability to scramble from the pocket. Defensively the Gamecocks took NC State's example and emphasized pressure on Tajh Boyd. The difference for South Carolina was the ability to get into Boyd's face almost exclusively with their defensive front. Melvin Ingram, Jadeveon Clowney, and the rest of the defensive line had a superb game limiting the Tigers' rushing attack and forcing Boyd into errant throws.

WHEN SOUTH CAROLINA WON: The Gamecocks' defense opened the fourth quarter holding Clemson's offense to a field goal after Ingram sacked Boyd for a 9-yard loss on 3rd down inside the 15. The South Carolina offense followed with a 14 play drive that ate up over seven minutes of game clock before ending in a field goal. When Clemson got the ball back, down 27-13, Tajh Boyd threw two incomplete passes before his third was picked off by DeVonte Holloman and returned to the Clemson 19. Two plays later Alshon Jeffery is hauling in a touchdown pass and the game is in the books. After a back and forth third quarter, it was that series of events that ended all hope for the young Tigers' squad.

WHAT SOUTH CAROLINA WON: For the second time in school history, and the first time under Steve Spurrier, South Carolina hit the 10-win mark. The achievement adds to the list of 2011 honors that include the first 6-2 SEC finish in school history, and the first 5-0 finish against division opponents. The absence of an SEC Championship Game bid does sting, but you have to be impressed with the Gamecocks' finish considering the obstacles they have overcome.

WHAT CLEMSON LOST: Any shot at momentum heading into the ACC Championship Game. The Tigers didn't need to win either of their final two contests to earn a BCS bowl bid, but their back-to-back losses against NC State and South Carolina have shown revealed weaknesses that went under the radar during the 8-0 start. While Clemson is reeling after their third loss in four games, Virginia Tech is playing their best ball of the season. The Hokies have won seven straight games since losing 23-3 to Clemson at home in early October. The Tigers can expect Virginia Tech's best shot on Saturday in the ACC Championship Game, and South Carolina gave the Hokies a great gameplan in the win.

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Posted on: November 25, 2011 3:06 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 13

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet.  Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom.

So you're been eating turkey and Thanksgiving leftovers for two days now, you've still got an entire Saturday of football to get through. And really, is there any better way to work off all the weight you've gained over the holiday than by sitting on a couch watching football?

Of course not.

So strap yourselves in and prepare for one of the last Saturdays you'll have this season.

BREAKFAST

#9 Oklahoma vs. Iowa State - FX 12pm ET

Who'd have known this game could hold so much intrigue? Iowa State is coming off a huge win of Oklahoma State and Oklahoma is coming off a loss to Baylor. Is it possible that Oklahoma could get upset two weeks in a row, or that Iowa State could pull off consecutive upsets? Your first reaction is to probably think not, but then again, how many of us thought Iowa State would beat Oklahoma State last week? - Tom Fornelli

#23 Georgia Tech vs. #13 Georgia - ESPN 12pm ET

The Jackets simply can't ask for a better week to play the Dawgs. Todd Grantham only has a week to prepare his defense for the Tech triple-option; how focused that defense will be with the SEC Championship on deck is entirely debatable; and we're guessing Tech didn't spend all of their nine days between their Nov. 10 game vs. Virginia Tech and last Saturday's vs. Duke prepping for the Devils. But against Jarvis Jones and a Bulldog defense ranked second in the nation in rush defense, will any of that matter? - Jerry Hinnen

#15 Michigan vs. Ohio State - ABC 12pm ET

This would appear to be a prime opportunity for Michigan to exorcise the demons of Jim Tressel's dominance; for one, Tressel's not even there anymore, and more importantly, the Wolverines are probably better than the Buckeyes. Of course, "better" doesn't always equal "victorious" in a sport as maniacally unpredictable as college football, but we're sure Denard Robinson and his (intermittently) high-powered offense are just as eager to take this matchup off paper and onto the gridiron as OSU is. - Adam Jacobi

UConn vs. Rutgers - ESPN2 12pm ET

The schedule has worked out well for Rutgers to put themselves in a position to win a share of the Big East title for the first time in school history.  But accomplishing that feat still requires one more win to finish at 5-2 in league play.  Paul Pasqualoni's Connecticut squad is out of the hunt for a BCS bowl berth, but with Rutgers and Cincinnati left on the schedule they have two great opportunities to spoil someone else's fun. This game has been played close the last several years, and Connecticut's players will be looking for revenge after giving up a close 27-24 game to the Scarlet Knights a year ago.  Rutgers running back Jawan Jamison has emerged as the star in the offensive backfield in the second half of the season, and if he can get going early it should open up the defense for wide receiver Mohamed Sanu to pick on a struggling Huskies secondary. - Chip Patterson

LUNCH

#24 Auburn vs. #2 Alabama - CBS 3:30pm ET

If this game was being played on paper -- or a neutral venue -- there wouldn't be much intrigue to it. Alabama has the more efficient offense, has the far superior defense, and is favored by three full touchdowns in a series that (for all the "throw out the records" talk) rarely produces upsets. But the game's being played in Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium, where the Tigers nearly ruined the Tide's national championship hopes two seasons ago and where AJ McCarron may not be the steady quarterback he's been at home. So don't send the Tide to New Orleans just yet. - JH 

Virginia vs. #5 Virginia Tech - ABC/ESPN2 3:30pm ET

Virginia Tech's move to the ACC received some significant help from Virginia during the ACC's expansion in 2004.  The Hokies have repaid their Commonwealth brothers by winning four of six division titles and beating the Cavaliers every season since joining the conference.  Second-year head coach Mike London has Virginia playing their best football at the right time, winning six of their last seven contests.  There aren't a lot of stars on the roster, but they play smash-mouth football and have been incredibly opportunistic.  Virginia Tech must avoid turning the ball over and try to jump out to an early lead to force Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco to move the ball through the air.  Logan Thomas and David Wilson will be the key to the Hokies' ground game, as ball control will be necessary for either team to clinch the ACC Coastal Division and a berth to the ACC Championship Game. - CP

#16 Wisconsin vs. #19 Penn State - ESPN 3:30pm ET

This one's for half the Big Ten Tostitos, folks. Penn State's basically never been taken seriously as a division contender, yet here it is one win away from a trip to Indianapolis. Meanwhile, Wisconsin gets to continue its path to redemption if it wins here--and then there's just a rematch with MSU with the Rose Bowl on the line. It's a great offense vs. a great defense, and a lousy offense vs. a lousy defense. Compelling viewing all around. By the way, I think I owe Brent Musberger AND Frito-Lay royalties for that opening line. A rare tandem, that. - AJ

#10 Oregon vs. Oregon State - ABC/ESPN2 3:30pm ET

This isn't a rivalry, this is Civil War. The Ducks are looking to close out the Pac-12 regular season as North champions and host the first ever conference title game so who better to do so against than their rival up the highway? The Beavers are banged up but should put up a fight with quarterback Sean Mannion likely throwing the ball all over. - Bryan Fischer

DINNER

Florida vs. Florida State - ESPN2 7pm ET

The Gators and 'Noles are both living in a Sunshine State of Disappointment at the moment, but one team will get to head off to a bowl game with some measure of solace. Don't expect a lot of offensive fireworks -- both teams' offenses have lagged behind their defenses this year, with FSU's 14-13 home loss to Virginia last week the latest evidence -- but 6-5 Gator record or not, the atmosphere at Florida Field should still be plenty hostile and relations between the teams still plenty frosty. - JH

#12 South Carolina vs. #17 Clemson - ESPN 7:45pm ET

Clemson enters the annual rivalry reeling after three frustrating performances that resulted in road losses to Georgia Tech and NC State. The Tigers have clinched a berth to the ACC Championship Game, but need to get a strong performance to get back on track. The Gamecocks on the other hand are just starting to put the pieces back together after a frustrating stretch of injuries and dismissals have revamped the offense. Connor Shaw had one of his best games of the season against Furman, but it was also Furman. The matchup to watch here will be South Carolina's dominating - but slightly banged up - defense against Tajh Boyd and the Clemson offense. The Tigers get star freshman Sammy Watkins back, after missing the NC State loss with a shoulder injury, but will it be enough to make up for a sputtering unit that was exposed by the Wolfpack in the 37-13 loss? - CP

#6 Stanford vs. #22 Notre Dame - ABC 8pm ET

This will be Andrew Luck's final chance to impress Heisman voters this season, and it could be his final game in Palo Alto. Luck will also be facing a team that he's had some trouble with, as in his two games against Notre Dame, Luck has thrown one touchdown and two interceptions. Though Stanford is also 2-0 in both of those games.  As for the Irish, a win over Stanford in Palo Alto to finish the regular season would be an excellent way to cap a season that started off poorly but has redeemed itself a bit since. - TF

LATE NIGHT SNACK

USC vs. UCLA - Fox Sports 10pm ET

USC returns to the Coliseum after their big upset win over Oregon and can end their season with a big win over crosstown rival UCLA. This might be the last game in the cardinal and gold for quarterback Matt Barkley and he'll want nothing more than to have a great game to secure a 10-win year despite sanctions. The Bruins are not only playing to beat the Trojans but also for a spot in the Pac-12 championship game and a South division title. - BF 
Posted on: November 23, 2011 12:41 pm
Edited on: November 23, 2011 12:47 pm
 

ACC-SEC Grudge Week Preview



Posted by Jerry Hinnen and Chip Patterson


There's no formal conference-vs.-conference challenge in college football, but this week is as close as we're going to come: four contests matching up SEC and ACC opponents, all of them competitive matchups on paper. Here, our resident ACC and SEC bloggers break down why each team can (or should) expect to win and offer their predictions.

No. 13 Georgia at No. 23 Georgia Tech, 12 p.m. ET. TV: ESPN

THE CASE FOR GEORGIA: Regardless of motivation or prep time (neither of which favors the Bulldogs, admittedly), the antidote to Georgia Tech's triple-option is the same as it's always been: a powerful defensive line and a running game that keeps the Tech offense off the field. In immovable nose tackles John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers and whirling-dervish 3-4 outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, the Bulldogs can put a check mark by the former, and the combination of Crowell and a rapidly improving offensive line should be able to provide the latter. If the Dawgs are at all focused, they've got the better, more talented team. But are they at all focused?

THE CASE FOR GEORGIA TECH: While the in-state athletes have made a point to do their barking in the media, I'm not entirely sure the Bulldogs will have their total focus on Georgia Tech.  With the SEC Championship Game a week away, some have suggested that Mark Richt rest banged up players like star running back Isaiah Crowell to keep them fresh for the SEC West representative in Atlanta.  Georgia Tech is out of the ACC Championship Game hunt, and now has refocused on a goal of achieving a 10-win season.  With the game in Atlanta, it just seems like the Yellow Jackets have more to play for and less to lose.

Jerry's Pick: Georgia 28, Georgia Tech 27
Chip's Pick: Georgia 31, Georgia Tech 24

Vanderbilt at Wake Forest, 3:30 p.m. ET. TV: ESPNU

THE CASE FOR VANDERBILT: A 5-6 record is a fine, fine start for James Franklin, but even more impressive is that the 'Dores have arguably been even better than that record: their last four SEC losses have come by a total of 19 points. Jordan Rodgers has been a revelation since taking over as starting quarterback, and potential All-SEC corner Casey Hayward leads a top-notch secondary that will pose major matchup problems for the Deacon passing attack. That Vandy's been better at home than on the road (and that the same goes for Wake) could be troubling, but this Commodore team is easily good enough to be a bowl team, and they should be plenty fired up to prove it.

THE CASE FOR WAKE FOREST: Wake Forest can expect to get Vanderbilt's best shot, particularly with bowl eligibility on the line for James Franklin's squad.  Perhaps the best matchup for Wake Forest is neutralizing one of the Commodores' strengths.  Vanderbilt has an opportunistic defense that has forced 17 interceptions on the season (T-1 in the SEC), but Tanner Price has one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC at taking care of the ball.  Price has thrown for 19 touchdowns and just six interceptions, and has nearly doubled his 2010 output with 2,646 yards on the year.  Still, especially after last week's debacle against Tennessee you have think Vanderbilt will be an inspired team on Saturday.

Jerry's Pick: Vanderbilt 30, Wake Forest 27
Chip's Pick: Vanderbilt 34, Wake Forest 31

Florida State at Florida, 7:00 p.m. ET. TV: ESPN2

THE CASE FOR FLORIDA: The (surprisingly difficult) win over Furman got the Gators into a bowl, but the only way to genuinely salvage Will Muschamp's rocky debut season is to beat the 'Noles, and Muschamp's team knows it. Playing hated FSU at home should wake up the dormant Florida Field crowd, and it's not like the Gators don't have the talent to win this game: a healthy John Brantley at quarterback, the Chris Rainey/Jeff Demps tag team at tailback, Jelani Jenkins at linebacker. The Gators' top-20 defense should be plenty enough of a match for an FSU offense that's scored a total of 36 points the last two weeks. If the 'Noles can lose to Virginia at home, they're certainly vulnerable enough to lose to the motivated Gators in Gainesville.

THE CASE FOR FLORIDA STATE: Unlike the Gators, the Seminoles have shown the potential of a Top 10-caliber team when they are healthy and have all the pieces working together.  Unfortunately for Florida State, they are like Florida with their inconsistent performances throughout the season.  When EJ Manuel has time to throw and is able to get in rhythm, the Seminoles becomes dangerous and potent very quickly.  The Gators' defense presents arguably their toughest challenge on the schedule, but at least Florida State has played at an elite level at times this year.

Jerry's Pick: Florida 24, Florida State 21
Chip's Pick: Florida State 28, Florida 16

No. 17 Clemson at No. 12 South Carolina, 7:45 p.m. ET. TV: ESPN

THE CASE FOR SOUTH CAROLINA: The Gamecocks haven't seen many offenses like Clemson's, but the Tigers also haven't seen many defenses like Carolina's. Melvin Ingram has been one of the nation's best defensive ends, Jadeveon Clowney has lived up to the hype and more, and what was one of the FBS's most flammable secondaries in 2010 has turned into one of its stingiest in 2011. The buttoned-down Gamecock offense won't put a lot of points on the board, but they should put up some against the roller-coaster Tiger defense. They could easily be enough opposite that defense.

THE CASE FOR CLEMSON: Sammy. Watkins. When healthy, his presence on the field changes so many aspects of the game.  The superstar freshman has been cleared to play after sitting out last week with a shoulder injury, and if he is at full speed Steve Spurrier will have some difficult special teams decisions to make.  The Gamecocks' kick coverage has been less than stellar, so OBC will need to figure out whether he'd rather set up the potent Tigers offense with a short field or put the ball in the hands of arguably the most explosive player in the ACC.  He returns kicks, punts, and offensive coordinator Chad Morris moves him all around in the offense.  The Tigers' offense was missing a spark in the loss to NC State, but he'll be ready to go for this rivalry game.

Jerry's Pick: Clemson 27, South Carolina 21
Chip's Pick: Clemson 45, South Carolina 38


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Posted on: November 23, 2011 11:34 am
 

Sammy Watkins (shoulder) expects to play at SC

Posted by Chip Patterson

When Clemson needed fast scoring after falling into a 24-3 second quarter deficit against NC State, their most explosive playmaker could do nothing but watch from the sidelines. Freshman wide receiver Sammy Watkins initially warmed up for the road game against the Wolfpack, but sat out nursing an injured shoulder.

Their spot in the ACC Championship Game is clinched, but Clemson has plenty of bragging rights to play for in the unofficial state championship against South Carolina. The good news for Tigers' fans is Watkins was able to practice Tuesday, and believes he will be at full speed for Saturday's Top 25 showdown with the Gamecocks.

“I feel fine. I am getting a lot of treatment and getting better every day so I can get better as quickly as possible. I have made a lot of progress and think I will be close to 100 percent by game time," Watkins said on Tuesday. “I am excited to play South Carolina because I know about the rivalry. It is a nationally televised game against a top 15 team. I am most excited to just get back on the field and help this team.”

Watkins isn't the only key player expected to be back on the field for the Tigers. Starting left tackle Phillip Price missed the NC State loss after spraining his right knee against Wake Forest. The offensive line was overwhelmed and out of sync against the Wolfpack, allowing a season-worst six sacks. CBSSports.com's Travis Sawchik reports that Price was able to do all the physical drills in practice on Tuesday, and should be back in the starting lineup for South Carolina.

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Posted on: November 22, 2011 4:45 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Clemson at South Carolina

Posted by Chip Patterson

SOUTH CAROLINA WILL WIN IF: They can move the ball against Clemson's defense. The Gamecocks offense has struggled in the back half of the season, but was able to gain some momentum in Week 13 - even if it was against The Citadel. After averaging 16.5 points per game in their previous four contests, quarterback Connor Shaw led a 473 yard offensive performance that resulted in the 41-20 win. The Gamecocks defense has been the most consistent aspect of this year's team, but the unit enters the rivalry game with some injury issues. The Tigers' defense has shown they are vulnerable, and South Carolina may need to take advantage just to play keep-up with Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins.

CLEMSON WILL WIN IF: They can win the battle in the trenches. Clemson's offensive line only allowed 18 sacks through their first ten games, but allowed six sacks to NC State alone in the embarrassing 37-13 defeat on Saturday. By the same measure, Clemson's defensive line has to do a better job of getting into the backfield and pressuring the quarterback. Andre Branch and Brandon Thompson were near the top of everyone's midseason watch list for all-conference honors, but both players have been much more quiet in the last three games. Clemson has to regain their focus to get a win against South Carolina, and they need a strong performance to build some momentum heading into the ACC Championship Game.

X-FACTOR: Sammy Watkins. The superstar freshman injured his shoulder against Wake Forest and was unavailable for the Tigers' loss at NC State. With Watkins cleared to play, the question is now how much he can play. Watkins in his most dangerous form impacts the game as a wide receiver, punt returner, and kick returner. Every touchdown by the opposition is followed with the question of whether you want to kick the ball to Watkins, or risk giving Clemson's high-powered offense a short field. Every punter has to undergo the same concerns, causing him to rethink or readjust his kick. As Watkins shifts around in the offense, the secondary has to be aware and ready to close in at any moment. Rivalry games like this are often decided by big plays, and few people can impact a game in a split-second like a healthy Sammy Watkins.

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