For all the injuries, surprises, milestones and disappointments, the No. 14 Gamecocks (9-2) and No. 18 Tigers (9-2) have the chance for 10 victories – something both programs have sought for decades.
“It’s the state championship,” Gamecocks defensive end Melvin Ingram said. “Both teams will come out and give it their all.”
The two teams haven’t both been ranked when they’ve played since 2000 and the 18 combined wins are the most ever in rivalry history.
“I think it’s neat for our state that we had two teams in the top 25 all year and occasionally in the top 15,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said.
Clemson has reached two of the five team goals posted in the meeting room wall in winning the opener and the ACC Atlantic Division. Goal No. 3 is winning the state championship.
“That’s what we have to focus on. Let’s be who we are. We’ve got volumes of tape of us doing the right things. That’s what we have to get back to doing,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.
The Tigers’ recent problems on offense – they’ve averaged only 20 points the past three games after scoring over 40 a contest in the 8-0 start – come from turnovers, according to offensive coordinator Chad Morris. Tajh Boyd threw 24 touchdowns and three interceptions in Clemson’s perfect start, but just three TDs and six picks in the three games since.
By not taking care of the football, “we’ve lost some confidence the last few games,” he said.
The Tigers will get a big shot of confidence with the return of Sammy Watkins, the freshman who leads the ACC with 10 touchdown catches.
He sat out the loss to N.C. State because of a shoulder injury but has worked out all week.
Less certain is South Carolina’s star freshman, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who suffered a mild concussion in last week’s victory over The Citadel.
Spurrier and defensive leader Ellis Johnson are hopeful Clowney will be ready.