Ahead of this year’s Clemson - South Carolina matchup we had a chance to sit down with Thomas from Garnet and Black Attack to do a Q&A. Below are our questions about the game and Thomas’ answers. You can see our answers to his questions over at GABA. A big thanks to Thomas for taking some time to answer these.
STS: South Carolina is 8-3, a big turnaround from last year. What's been the big reason for the Gamecock's success?
GABA: A lot of our success has come on the back of our defense. Bentley has had an okay year, and we’re still struggling offensively. No one has scored more than 28 points on our defense this year. If we keep games to a low scoring slug fest it gives us the best chance to win.
STS: A lot of teams in the SEC have been... less than great shall we say. With y'all doing well how much of it has been taking advantage of opportunities against trash teams (Looking at you Tennessee!) versus really making some big improvements in play?
GABA: I think it’s honestly both. Obviously, Tennessee and Florida have been completely terrible. I don’t think this squad is 8-3 and second in the SEC East for no reason. The Gamecocks have a good football team, but the East is down considerably. All of our losses have been against SEC opponents so far, so winning all of the out of conference games has played a big role in that. Our schedule last year was way weaker than this year, and to be at 8 wins so far is a great sign.
STS: Now that USC fans have been able to get a full season look at Jake Bentley what are your thoughts on him? Is his success matching the hype?
GABA: Personally, I think he’s just a good not great quarterback. He has his moments where he lights it up and makes big plays (see Texas A&M and NC State highlights), and then he throws 5 INTs in two weeks against UGA and Florida. Losing Deebo Samuel has obviously hurt his production, usually no one can lose their #1 receiver and still produce the same way. However, he has been missing a lot of throws high this season and it’s easy to see. He had his best game of the season against Wofford (I know it’s Wofford but they’re a top 8 FCS team), he was 22-28 with five drops by WRs. If he can be in the range of 22-34 and no interceptions against Clemson, that’s going to improve his year a lot.
STS: If South Carolina's offense is going to have success against Clemson, what will you be looking for early on?
GABA: Run game has to start out strong. As an offense, we’ve been getting around the 200 YPG on the ground for about 4 or 5 games now except Georgia. If we can get the short down and distance consistently, it will help us move the ball against Clemson. No one wants to be in 3rd and 10 ten times a game against Clemson’s D-Line.
STS: Will Muschamp has always been known for his defense. What's impressed you with South Carolina's defense this year?
GABA: Has to be the defensive line. They’ve played pretty well all year, especially against the run. We’re only giving up 140 YPG on the ground and about 3.8 YPC. I think we’ve only given up 200+ yards twice, and that was to A&M and UGA. As far as pass rush, it has been good.
STS: How is USC going to have to attack this Clemson offense to find success this year?
GABA: It’s going to be whether or not we can stop Kelly Bryant from running the football. In the little amount of Clemson I’ve watched this year, Bryant runs hard and gets an extra yard or two just about every time. He doesn’t seem to be anywhere close to the passer Watson was, but he runs just as good if not better. If we can put him in 3rd & 7+ all game, I’d feel good comes towards the end of the game. If we let him break off 20+ yard runs it could be a long day for the Gamecock defense.
STS: Who are some of the unknown guys Clemson needs to be aware of on Saturday?
GABA: I’m going to go with Dante Sawyer and the Smiths. Sawyer has been one of defensive lineman to have a great year, he’s currently leading the entire country in forced fumbles along with 5 TFL and 3 sacks. On offense, we have two freshman WR’s who have stepped up big time in the absence in Deebo Samuel. OrTre and Shi Smith have both played well this year, combining for over 650 yards and 5 TDs. Those kids have an extremely bright future.
STS: What's your prediction for the game?
GABA: I’m never going to predict Clemson to win, it’s just not in my blood. I think if South Carolina can score a few times and keep Clemson around the 20 point mark, it’ll give us the best chance. Bentley has to play really well, but 24-21 Gamecocks. Whatever the score is, I do think Carolina will play much better than last year and keep it close.