South Carolina rides high.
USC wiped out then-no. 5 Tennessee 63-38 at Columbia last week and now heads to Death Valley for a seven-game losing streak against archrival Clemson.
Here are three encounters to watch:
QB Spencer Rattler vs Clemson secondary
Spencer Rattler was borderline unconscious last week.
He completed 30 of 37 passes for 438 yards and a program record six touchdown passes. He was voted attacking national player of the week by Walter Camp. He looked just like the South Carolina player envisioned for one night when he was signed in December.
Now comes the replication.
Clemson’s defense has largely led the Tigers to an outside shot in the college football playoffs. However, the secondary has shown some weaknesses.
The Tigers currently allow 214.5 passing yards per game, good for 51st place nationally and sixth in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The perception throughout the offseason was that Rattler could blow up this year and South Carolina could win a football game. He did just that in Saturday’s upset win over Tennessee. can he do it again We will see.
WR Antonio Williams against the South Carolina defenders
In case you’re not familiar with the history here, let’s look back.
Antonio Williams was one of the top receivers on the South Carolina recruiting board during the 2021 cycle. For most of the process, the Gamecocks felt they had a head start. Clemson offered Williams in the 11th hour and the rest is history.
The former Dutch Fork receiver has become a dynamic playmaker for the Tigers, leading the team with 506 yards on 47 receptions this fall.
South Carolina worked wonders against an offensive in Tennessee that blew the doors off everyone this side of No. 1 Georgia in 2022. Cam Smith, Darius Rush and the rest of the high school largely held all-world receivers Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman at bay, allowing only four passing plays of 17 yards or more.
Expect Smith to draw plenty of Williams on Saturday when the Tigers and Gamecocks meet. If South Carolina can keep him at bay, they have a chance.
South Carolina Offensive Line vs. Clemson Defensive Line
Clemson has taken his clumps this year, but the defense remains mostly elite in the trenches.
KJ Henry, Myles Murphy, Bryan Bresee and Tyler Davis all have NFL talent — and showed it this year. Opposing teams are a little over 100 yards per game against the Tigers, good for the third-best grade in the ACC.
This group was also wildly disruptive against opposing quarterbacks. The Tigers have 32 sacks a year and average just under three per game.
Enter the South Carolina offensive line.
USC excelled against a disruptive Tennessee front a week ago, giving Rattler time to make his progress and allowing the games to develop downfield. The performance was the third-best pass block performance of the season according to Pro Football Focus’ 100-point scoring system.
The Gamecocks haven’t been great across the board this year. They are for ninth-allowed sacks among Southeastern Conference teams (24) and 13th in opposing tackles for a loss (80).
If the line can keep Rattler upright and plow a few holes in the running game, South Carolina could have a chance to break its nearly decade-long losing streak against Clemson.