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Swinney, Tigers eager to right the ship against Gamecocks

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Lucas Downs
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and players take part in the “Walk of Champions” tradition ahead of the South Carolina game.

The Tigers and Gamecocks will meet in a prime-time game this Saturday to mark the 120th matchup between the bitter rivals. With kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. at Williams-Brice Stadium, Clemson has a one-track mind as they head to Columbia: revenge.

“It’s a season of its own regardless of your record,” head coach Dabo Swinney said ahead of the game. “This one is unique and different. The preparation is the same. It’s just a game that everyone will live with for the next year, and you’re going to hear about it all the time. It’s great to win it, and it stinks when you don’t.”

There are likely few Clemson fans who don’t remember exactly where they were last November when the Tigers fell to South Carolina by a score of 31-30, ending their 40-game home win streak and seven-game rivalry win streak in one fell swoop.

Coming into Saturday, Clemson is hot off of a three-game homestand, which saw impressive wins over Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and North Carolina. South Carolina is also undefeated in the month of November thus far, with victories against Jacksonville State, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. However, the Tigers hold an advantage in strength of schedule, as two of their opponents in that stretch were top-20 teams, while the Gamecocks have not faced a ranked team since their 34-12 loss to No. 10 Missouri in October.

Shane Beamer and his South Carolina squad were off to a rough 2-6 start this season after losing many of their key pieces to the transfer portal. Their top two rushers from 2022, MarShawn Lloyd and Jaheim Bell, departed for USC and Florida State, respectively. Their defense has suffered from the loss of edges Gilber Edmond and Jordan Burch, who went to the Seminoles and Oregon, respectively.

The Gamecocks will once again be led by quarterback Spencer Rattler, who has thrown 19 touchdown passes and seven interceptions this season — oddly enough, the exact same statistics as Clemson’s signal-caller Cade Klubnik.

South Carolina has been relying heavily on running back Mario Anderson, as the redshirt senior has been its leading rusher in eight of the last 11 games. If Clemson’s defense can stifle Anderson early on and hold the Gamecocks to three-and-outs, Klubnik and the Tigers’ burgeoning offense will have their shots to take the field and add points to the board.

Meanwhile, Rattler’s arm and receiving core have over 500 more yards in the air than the Tigers, so Clemson’s secondary will need to play at its best. The Gamecocks tend to rely heavily on wide receiver Xavier Legette, who is second in the SEC in receiving yards. Clemson cornerback Nate Wiggins will most likely be following him, considering Wiggins had an impressive showing against North Carolina last weekend which earned him ACC Defensive Back of the Week honors.

Wiggins will be complemented by a young core of talented defensive backs, which excelled against Georgia Tech two weeks ago, in addition to the linebacker duo of Jeremiah Trotter Jr. and Barrett Carter to lock down the entire field.

On the other side of the ball, Clemson’s offensive production has nearly doubled as of late. The Tigers are averaging 34.7 points per game in November as opposed to the 18 they averaged in October. This uptick in scoring was led by running backs Phil Mafah and Will Shipley, who have combined for 569 rushing yards over the last three games.

Time will tell how this year’s feud between the premier universities in the state will end.

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Grace O'Donnell, Sports Editor
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