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Tuesday Press Conference: Rivalry Week

It's officially Clemson/South Carolina week.  Any fan of either school knows how important this game is every year.  If there's one game on the schedule you want to win more than any other it's this one.  To do that, Clemson is going to have to do something it hasn't done in several games, put four quarters of strong football together.  This is not the South Carolina team of old.  This is a solid football team and a program that has dominated Clemson in it's last two meetings.  It's time for that to change.  You simply do not lose to South Carolina, ever.  And you sure don't lose three times in a row.  

Bottom line in a game like this, we know a lot about them and they know a lot about us. This is a game where you have to take care of the football and give yourself a chance to be successful. Your players have to play. The best players have to make plays in championship-type games. Guys have to show up and be ready and do their jobs.

Two years ago Clemson was in a similar boat as they are now.  Two years ago the Tigers were only a week removed from winning the Atlantic Division only to turn around and get stomped in Columbia.  This year, the Atlantic Division will have been wrapped up for two weeks, and this time Clemson is coming off its most embarrassing loss since the Georgia Dome debacle against Alabama.  Perhaps in 2009, the Tigers were looking ahead to the ACC Championship.  This year that cannot happen.  This game is huge.  Huge for the state, its fans, and its program.  Win on Saturday and Clemson will get some of its much needed mojo back.  

Ya'll want some grand answer. It's not complicated. 11 turnovers in three games. If you have that, you don't have a chance. We're lucky we didn't lose three games...We had six turnovers in eight games and we won eight games. Until you stop turnovers, the rest is irrevelant.

Dabo is absolutely right.  Turnovers kill drives, momentum within games, and cause teams to start questioning what they are doing.  Clemson has lost its confidence and that is due in large part to an offense that was gangbusters for most of the season to really fall on its face the last three games.  This game is no different, you aren't going to be able to turn the ball over and still expect to win.  It's simply really.  

What does South Carolina brings to the table this weekend?  A damn good defense, one that ranks 5th in total defense and 15th in scoring defense.  Their pass defense is even better, ranking 2nd in the country.  This is going to be the biggest test of the season for this offense.  For an offense that looked anemic against NC State, Saturday could be ugly if the Tigers struggle out of the gate.  But once again, it starts with turnovers.  In the last three games, Clemson has been its own worse enemy.  This is still a potent attack if we can protect the football and Tajh starts playing like he did in games 1-8.  Two big ifs for sure.

Defensively, you can probably take all of those guys and let them play on Sunday.  They have NFL guys all over the field. They're very talented...They're as good as anybody out there. Their similar to Florida State and North Carolina in terms of athleticism.

Clemson isn't doomed.  They have faced some solid defenses thus far this season in Florida State, North Carolina, and Virginia Tech.  Clemson moved the ball on all three of those teams.  That's what is particularly frustrating about this team.  We know the potential is there to be great.  We've seen it this year.  

To win on Saturday, Clemson is most likely going to need the services of Sammy Watkins.  He is that good.  This team looked lost without him on the field in Raleigh.  You don't just replace 1000+ receiving yards, 10 receiving TD's, 600+ yards in the return game, and 1 kickoff to the house.  The kid is explosive and stretches teams horizontally and vertically.  He wins football games for your team.  

He looked great last night. By Saturday, he'll be ready to go. You never know until you go see them play, a lot like everybody was concerned about Tajh when he had a knee injury and then it was his hip. Same thing with Sammy. Until he goes out and plays and gets tackled, there's always going to be that speculation out there. I think he'll be fine.

Offensively, South Carolina has struggled this year by Spurrier standards.  It certainly doesn't help when you lose your starting QB and star running back.  Still this offense could potentially pose huge problems for this defense on Saturday.  When Dabo mentioned zone-read this morning in regards to the USC attack I cringed a little.  For Clemson, the zone-read has seemed to be some sort of advanced calculus for this defense to figure out.  Maryland and Wake Forest both had tons of success running it against this defense and you're fooling yourself if you don't think Spurrier will try to exploit the same weaknesses in this defense that Maryland and Wake Forest saw in the film room.

They're a zone-read team. They'll throw the power in there and run some draws, but they run the zone-read from a 100 different formations. They're going to make you play disciplined, fundamental football. Their QB is a real weapon. We've got to be prepared for that. We have to be very disciplined in how we defend it.

Saturday is big, really big.  It sets the tone for the remaining games this season.  Beating South Carolina doesn't make or break the season, but it puts Clemson back in the win column, something they desperately need.  Winning on Saturday shouldn't be a goal, it should be the standard at this school.  It's time Clemson proves that.