Preview: Clemson at South Carolina
By Douglas Kroll
Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden will take on his second straight legendary coach in a row, when his Clemson Tigers face in-state rival South Carolina. After blowing out his father, Bobby, and Florida State last week 35-14, its now time to face a rejuvenated Gamecocks team and Steve Spurrier.
South Carolina is the surprise of the SEC as they sit at 7-3 and have moved into the top 25. They are ranked 19th in the AP and 21st in the coaches poll. Spurriers team has won five straight games, including upsets at Tennessee and last week at home against his former team, a 30-22 win over Florida.
Its an exciting time in Columbia as the team enters the final game of the regular season. The last time the Gamecocks were ranked going into the Clemson game was in 2001 and they are going to a bowl game for the first time since that season.
To say that South Carolina relies mainly on its passing game could be an understatement. The Gamecocks only average 83.3 yards per game on the ground with Mike Davis leading the way with only 43 yards per game and three touchdowns. Daccus Turman has also added four touchdowns.
The air game is where South Carolina thrives, and it all rests on the shoulders of redshirt sophomore Blake Mitchell, who has completed nearly 61 percent of his passes, thrown for 213.8 yards per game, and has a TD-to-INT ratio of 15-6.
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Sidney Rice has been Mitchells favorite receiver with 51 catches, 12 touchdowns and an average of 92 yards per game. Rice has been one of the best wide receivers in the nation all year long.
The Clemson Tigers have had a wacky year. The team sits at 6-4, but started out with a chance for a very special season after defeating ranked Texas A&M and Maryland to start the year, but then lost in triple overtime to Miami 36-30. Clemson has won four of its last five games and will look to make a strong case for themselves to be in a more prestigious bowl if they can beat South Carolina The Tigers have been in six games this season that have been decided by six points or less, and Clemson is 2-4 in those contests.
The Tigers lead the all-time series 62-36-4, and won the last meeting 29-7 in what turned out to be quite an ugly event. Players got into a major brawl that last several minutes.
Senior quarterback Charlie Whitehurst will be playing in his final battle of the Palmetto State. Whitehurst has had a productive year, completing 67 percent of his passes and throwing for over 2,100 yards. He has 11 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.
Clemson has a 1-2 punch at running back. Reggie Merriweather and James Davis have combined for nearly 135 yards per game.
Kickoff is set for 7 oclock in Columbia, and the game will be televised on ESPN2.
Douglas Kroll is an independent contributor to College Football Poll.com.