CLEMSON, SC — If No. 8 Clemson wants to beat rival South Carolina for an eighth straight game, he can’t play like Tennessee did on defense.
The 10th-Ranked Volunteers had perhaps their worst game of the year on defense in South Carolina. The Gamecocks rolled a season-high 606 total yards and caught six touchdown passes from quarterback Spencer Rattler in a stunning 63-38 win last Saturday in Columbia, SC
The loss knocked Tennessee out of college football playoff discussion and subsequently put the Tigers back in the game. However, if Clemson is to remain in the conversation, it must beat a confident South Carolina team at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
The key? Don’t play like the volunteers.
“They initially missed several duels. They missed some big tackles that led to some big games,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said when asked what Tennessee didn’t do against the Gamecocks. “Supply problems. I don’t think they affected the quarterback. He was very comfortable.”
Clemson (10-1) has been doing all of those things really well over the past few weeks in his Louisville and Miami appearances. In fact, the Tigers have done a relatively good job influencing the quarterback in each of the last seven games.
In five of those seven games, Clemson has kept his opponent under 50 percent passing completion. No one in those seven games threw for more than 254 yards and three opponents were held for under 200 yards and two others were held for under 100 yards.
Since the Tigers allowed Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman to rush for an average of 11.6 yards per attempt on Sept. 24, the opponent is averaging just 5.6 yards per attempt and 184.1 yards per game.
However, Rattler is perhaps the most talented quarterback Clemson has faced all year. He showed that talent last week when he completed 30 of 37 passes for 438 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions.
It was easily the best game of Rattler’s South Carolina career and his best since his redshirt freshman season in Oklahoma in 2020.
But there was a key to his success against the Volunteers.
“He’s had a lot of time on a lot of plays to get comfortable,” Swinney said.
Clemson, who has recorded 15 of his 32 sacks in his last four games, including nine in the past two weeks, will do his best to make Rattler uncomfortable. Then the secondary has to do what it has been doing for the past seven weeks.
They need to make competitive games, which Tennessee, again, didn’t do.
“They didn’t do the competitive games,” Swinney said. “It seemed like any competitive game…they were able to make the game. You didn’t make it.”
Can Clemson’s defense make these games this week?