Clemson vs. Carolina, the biggest game of the entire year in the Palmetto state. It is the same Saturday every year. This day is likened to Christmas here in the Southern part of the Carolinas. I dare say to residents of the state it means more to them than Christmas. Not being born into the intense rivalry I am able to look at this game from an unbiased opinion. My wife’s family has connections to both sides of this war. I would say mostly the family ties are to the ClemsonTigers though. This game is is really a battle of teams strengths versus the others strength. I will be briefly looking at the these strengths.
The Clemson Tigers offense is loaded with playmakers. Tahj Boyd leads this potent (#6 in total yards) offense against the Gamecocks tough defense (#13 in total defense). Clemson's offense can be accurately described as flash and dash.This season has been the culmination of Boyd into the quarterback he was recruited to be. He is #7 nationally in yards per game. The junior also ranks 2nd in NCAA passing efficiency. Boyd and his cohorts have lit up the scoreboard where ever they have played to the tune of 45 points per game. Piling up yards at an average of 535 per game! This unit has caused many sleepless nights for defensive coordinators from across the country. Boyd’s favorite weapon this year has been "Nuke" Hopkins. Hopkins has been uncoverable at times this year, he has averaged 17 yards per catch while hauling in 68 receptions, 15 of them being for touchdowns. The Clemson rushing attack is led by Andre Ellington. The senior running back is averaging 87 yards per game on the ground and he is 41 yards away from the 1,000 yard mark. Additionally he is averaging over 5 yards per carry. Clemson has 2 of the top 100 players in the NCAA in total offense, Boyd and Hopkins. This offense is capable of explosive plays and putting up points in bunches.
Carolina’s defense must pressure Boyd to keep him from lighting up the 22nd ranked Gamecock secondary. The Gamecocks have had success getting to the quarterback, taking down them down 34 times this year. The defense is led by super sophomore Jadaveon Clowney. The freakishly gifted Clowney is able to pressure quarterbacks using a combination of size and speed rarely seen on the collegiate level. He is #18 in sacks with 8 on the season and #7 in tackles for loss with 15. The front 7 of the Gamecocks might be the best in all college football. The weakness of the defense is the secondary. They have given up 2,136 yards through the air thus far.
Clemson will be hard pressed to run against this group. They must run the ball however, just to offset the fierce pass rush by Carolina. The success of the Tigers will be predicated by the effectiveness of the Clemson passing attack. This game is one of strength versus strength but may be determined on special teams and field position. It is gonna be fun to watch and the winner will once again have states bragging rights for the next year.
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