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Preview: Swinney and Tigers to vie for 8th straight win over Gamecocks

Lucas Downs, Contributor

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

Rivalry week is here, and although there are marquee matchups across the country, few are quite as historical and impactful as the Palmetto Bowl. 
Dating back to the first game between the two schools in 1896, Clemson and South Carolina have faced off 118 times, with the 119th game slated for noon EST this Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Clemson has won the past seven games, with the Gamecocks taking the previous five before the Tigers’ current streak.
Since 2008 when he first took over as the Tigers’ head coach, Dabo Swinney is 8-5 against the Gamecocks. And growing up in Alabama, he experienced the significance of rivalry week with Alabama and Auburn competing each year.
When asked by a reporter who grew up in Chicago why the rivalry game carries more significance than any other game, Swinney responded with a quick-witted remark. 
“Northwestern and Indiana, they’re probably not having marriages break up over that. No offense to Northwestern and Indiana,” he said.
Similar to the Iron Bowl, the Palmetto Bowl carries a sense of intrigue and uniqueness among fans.
“This is a fun week because you can really feel the intensity of it,” Swinney said. “Everybody’s paying attention, and everybody’s involved.”
While he acknowledged the importance of the rivalry game, Swinney also isn’t letting the outside noise affect his team.
 “You got to stay focused on those (fundamentals) in games like this and not get distracted by all the pomp and circumstance that comes along with it,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s a football game, and the most fired-up team isn’t going to win — it’s the team that executes the best.”
This year’s matchup between Clemson (10-1) and South Carolina (7-4) features two teams coming off dominating wins in which they both scored at least 40 points.
The Tigers are coming off a 40-10 beat down over Miami last week, while the Gamecocks are coming off a top 5 win over Tennessee in which they scored 63 points in the 25-point victory. 
With the Gamecocks’ explosive performance just six days ago, Swinney made it clear on Tuesday that his defense is in for a challenge.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen be hotter than they were last week, and a lot of confidence comes from that,” Swinney said.
At the helm of South Carolina’s offense is quarterback Spencer Rattler, who completed 30 of 37 passes last week for 438 yards and six touchdowns. Although Rattler has struggled at times this season, Swinney said that “he’s got all the tools” to succeed on any given Saturday.
“He’s a five-star quarterback for a reason and a starter at Oklahoma for a reason, and he has done a lot of great things,” Swinney said of Rattler. “He’s a really, really talented player.”
Clemson’s defense will have its hands full against Rattler and the Gamecocks’ offense, but the unit has also had some dominant performances.
Last week, the Tigers held the Hurricanes to just six first downs and 98 total yards. They also had five sacks on the day, a pass rush that Clemson will hope to lean on this week. 
Offensively, Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, running back Will Shipley and the rest of the Tigers’ offense will face off against a South Carolina defense that is allowing 27.3 points per game and 188.4 rushing yards per game.
Still, whether it be offense, defense or special teams, both teams will be trying to bring their A-game this week. It’s just a question of which can outlast the other.
“There’s the season, and then there’s South Carolina, which is obviously a goal of its own,” Swinney said. “It doesn’t matter what’s happened, what’s coming; it’s all about this week and getting ready for a good football team.”

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Justin Robertson
Justin Robertson, Associate Editor
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