South Carolina goes into this game hoping to snap a three game losing streak and avenge last years 56-7 demolition. It seems unlikely that Clemson’s offense will score like that against a significantly improved Gamecock defense. The Gamecock offense is a different story. Sophomore quarterback Jake Bentley has improved, but he’s not up to the task of carrying the offense by himself. Despite a solid offensive line and a pair of talented young running backs it seems unlikely that South Carolina will be able to run the ball against a Clemson front that features several future NFL draft picks. Add in the bend but don’t break nature of the Gamecock defense, and Clemson’s tendency to move downfield methodically, it seems unlikely that South Carolina can keep the Clemson offense off the field.
South Carolina has focused on the running game this year, they’ve found the most success lately with getting the explosive A.J. Turner running in space.
The Cocks like to run quite a bit of power. Both Turner and Tyson Williams, but especially Turner, are looking to break this run outside. Inside zone and counter are also foundational parts of the running game, and there’s RPO’s off most core runs.
South Carolina has a pair of big tight ends they move around, putting them in the backfield, on the line and as wings. OC/QB coach Kurt Roper is adept at using tight ends and unbalanced formations to create leverage in the running game. His offense operates mostly out of 11 or 12 personnel, rarely from under center.
QB Jake Bentley is a threat to carry the ball a handful of times the game on read options, particularly in the red zone. He leads the team with six total rushing touchdowns. He takes more than his fair share of sacks, but he’s a threat scrambling.
Bentley isn’t the most accurate passer but he has big receivers who can at least contest for the ball.
Bentley also has the arm strength to be a home run threat, and the awareness to throw downfield if the defender jumps offsides.
He is at his best throwing intermediate crossing routes and letting his receivers make plays. Bentley can occasionally attack the boundary but is less accurate throwing outside the hashes. Roper is content to call mesh all day if it’s working, but Bentley’s struggles throwing outside mean defenders are often sitting on routes over the middle.
Bentley still struggles with turnovers as well, posting a 15/9 TD/INT ratio. He occasionally struggles with accuracy while throwing on the run, and hasn’t been as effective a play action passer as you’d expect.
It seems unlikely, given how strong Clemson’s front is, that SC will be able to run the ball reliably. Throw in a preference for running the ball outside and Clemson’s overall defensive speed and it seems less likely. Jake Bentley isn’t a bad quarterback, but he shouldn’t to be able to carry this team on his own. Anything can happen in a rivalry game, but it’s hard to see South Carolina scoring much without Clemson turnovers and/or special teams help.
Clemson 34 - Gamecocks 21