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Behind enemy bylines: Clemson vs. South Carolina

Erica Hoduck // Provided
South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) will take on Clemson for the second time in his career on Saturday, Nov. 25.

Ahead of Clemson football’s game at South Carolina on Saturday, Luke Beard, assistant sports editor for The Tiger, spoke with Jacob Phillips, sports editor at The Daily Gamecock, South Carolina’s student newspaper.

Luke Beard (LB): Where has this South Carolina team improved the most throughout the season?

Jacob Phillips (JP): As the season has progressed, the overall defense has gotten much better for the Gamecocks. Especially in some of those early season losses, South Carolina was getting beat because the opposing quarterbacks were able to bomb it down the field. It cost the team in the Florida game, which is the only home loss of the season for the Gamecocks, and has cost us some of the games on the road, so that improvement has allowed us to go on this win streak.

LB: With the Gamecocks being on a three-game winning streak, how will their momentum impact their performance?

JP: The Gamecocks need to win this game to be bowl-eligible, and since that last loss of the season, they have gotten a lot better and have carried that momentum in their recent games. With the most recent win against Kentucky, the momentum was noticeable, as well as against Vanderbilt, and they were able to capitalize on this momentum and get two wins.

The South Carolina team will be motivated, as it knows that it will need to beat Clemson to keep the season alive and to make a bowl game.

LB: What matchup will have the biggest impact on the game?

JP: The biggest matchup of the game will be Xavier Legette against Clemson’s defensive backs. The offense runs through Legette for South Carolina, and if he is able to burn the Clemson defensive backs, Spencer Rattler will be able to find him and allow the Gamecocks to have opportunities to move the ball downfield.

If the Clemson secondary is able to shut down Legette, then the Tigers will likely have an advantage in this game, as the second-leading receiver for South Carolina is nearly 900 yards behind him.

LB: How will playing in Columbia affect the outcome of the game?

JP: The Gamecocks are very fortunate that they are playing at home this year, as the only loss was in a shootout against Florida. The last time Clemson came into Columbia it was a blowout Clemson victory, and Shane Beamer has not had success against the Tigers at home.

It will be big to see if this crowd shows up and how many members in the crowd will be Gamecock fans and Clemson fans, as Clemson does travel well. South Carolina has been successful when it is able to feed off of the home crowd’s energy, and if they can feed off of the energy in the way they do against some of the SEC teams they have beaten at home, it will help against Clemson.

LB: Where will Clemson have an advantage against the Gamecocks?

JP: The biggest place that Clemson has an advantage is in the battle on the line of scrimmage, especially against the struggling offensive line of the Gamecocks. The offensive line has been able to perform against inferior opponents; however, South Carolina’s offensive line has cost them some games, such as the game against UNC.

If Clemson’s defensive line can beat the offensive line of South Carolina, they will be able to get some big tackles against the running backs, as well as have an advantage with the ability to reach Spencer Rattler and get some sacks against him.

LB: Who will win and why?

JP: I’m going to be optimistic and pick South Carolina to win in a close 34-27 game. This is a big game for South Carolina, and if the Gamecocks offensive line can do a good job against Clemson’s defensive line, it will allow for Spencer Rattler to find some open receivers against Clemson and make impact plays down the field.

Interview responses were edited for length and clarity.

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Luke Beard
Luke Beard, Asst. Sports Editor
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