South Carolina is one powerful football team right now.
It’s not just because of its 8-3 record; there’s more.
The Gamecocks could potentially ruin the ACC’s chances of landing a team in the College Football Playoff.
Let’s say USC – which opened as a two-touchdown underdog according to Las Vegas sports books – upsets Clemson on Saturday. Then, let’s say Clemson goes on to beat Miami in the ACC championship game.
That would leave Clemson with two losses, which will make it an unlikely candidate for the CFP. Miami – assuming it survives against Pittsburgh this Friday – would finish with one blemish on a schedule that includes really only two signature wins (Virginia Tech and Notre Dame).
Yes, the Gamecocks could completely destroy the ACC’s chances this year.
And USC surely has plenty of motivation.
The Gamecocks have lost the last three in the Palmetto State rivalry, the most recent being a 56-7 thrashing at the hands of the eventual national champion Tigers a year ago.
In fact, there’s several reasons to believe South Carolina can beat Clemson.
For one, the Gamecocks are at home this time around. In the last meeting at Williams-Brice Stadium, a lowly USC squad that would finish the season 3-9 put up a fight against a Tigers squad that went on to the national championship game, losing 37-32.
Secondly, the Gamecocks come into the game with plenty of momentum. Here, I must admit that I was wrong. I wrote earlier this year that I thought USC was in for a long, painful ride after losing to Kentucky and losing star returner/receiver Deebo Samuel in September.
Instead, the Gamecocks are 8-3 and have won five of their last six, with the lone loss coming against a very good Georgia team.
Thirdly, Clemson has shown itself to be vulnerable to letdowns. The Tigers looked like they were rolling after a 6-0 start, with their margins of victory seemingly growing. However, a trip to the Carrier Dome proved too much as Clemson lost 27-24 to Syracuse, now 4-6. The Tigers haven’t lost since, but they also haven’t looked as dominant as they did a year ago.
Simply put, South Carolina is much better this year and Clemson is not quite as good as it was the last two years, when it made the national championship game.
The Gamecocks can help themselves by winning as they would position themselves for a better bowl game. They could also help out a bevy of teams waiting for a shoe to drop and give them a shot to sneak into the top four.
There are still many games to play out that will shake up the College Football Playoff rankings, and this game could be one of them.
And let’s not forget: South Carolina was once a member of the ACC back in the day (1953-1971). Why not stick it to your old boss?
Add that to the motivation to end a streak against your biggest rival and you have plenty of fuel.
Clemson better not be taking anything for granted as it marches into Columbia on Saturday.
There’s way too much at stake.
Who: Clemson (10-1) at South Carolina (8-3)
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia
Radio: 93.9-FM, 99.5-FM, 1240-AM, 1400-AM