Tag:South Carolina Preview
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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