The no. 3 Clemson Tigers will put their 26-game winning streak on the line in their regular-season finale against the South Carolina Gamecocks in an ACC-SEC rivalry game. Game time is set for noon EST on Saturday, November 30 at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
The Tigers are currently listed as 27-point favorites on the road. There is also an over/under for the game set at 51.5 points. Click here to check out all of the Week 14 college football odds.
It’s hard for a team that’s won 26 games in a row to fly under the radar, but that’s been the case with Clemson for most of the year. The Tigers have rarely been challenged in a mediocre ACC outside of their close call against North Carolina in late September. Ever since that game, Clemson has been steamrolling every team in their path, winning their last six games by an average of over 42 points. However, the Tigers have no choice but to keep up that kind of dominance. The ACC hasn’t afforded Clemson with enough quality wins to survive a loss on their resume and still reach the College Football Playoff. To stay in the top-4, the Tigers have to win this week and take care of business in the ACC Championship Game next week.
Meanwhile, the Gamecocks have nothing at stake except trying to ruin the season of their in-state rivals. South Carolina has endured a tough schedule and plenty of bad luck this year, leaving them at 4-7 despite that upset of Georgia earlier this season. Since that win over Georgia, the Gamecocks have lost four of five games, including a surprising home loss to Appalachian State a few weeks ago. Despite the disappointing campaign, the university is standing behind head coach Will Muschamp, who doesn’t have to worry about coaching to keep his job when the Gamecocks face the undefeated Tigers.
There hasn’t been much parity in the Palmetto Bowl between these teams over the past decade. The Gamecocks won five in a row from 2009 to 2013 but the Tigers have now won the last five meetings, coinciding with their rise to prominence on the national stage. Of Clemson’s five straight wins over South Carolina, only one game was decided by less than 18 points, including a 56-35 win for the Tigers in last year’s meeting.
For a team that’s won six straight games by an average of 42 points and a minimum of 31 points, covering a 27-point spread sounds more than reasonable for Clemson. Of course, rivalry games can be tricky, especially on the road. But only North Carolina and Texas A&M have managed to stay within 30 points of the Tigers, and both of those games came over two months ago. I don’t have enough reasons to think that South Carolina will be any different, so I’ll eat the points and lean toward Clemson to cover.
Admittedly, the South Carolina defense has played well at times this season. They have the size and physicality up front to potentially contain Clemson’s running game and keep the Tigers from turning this game into an early blowout. However, the South Carolina defense hasn’t been consistent enough to make me think they can keep that up for four quarters. Just last week, they gave up over 300 rushing yards against Texas A&M, which is a bad omen for a team that’s about to play Clemson.
Running back Travis Etienne has a tendency of turning one missed tackle or missed assignment into a long touchdown run. He’s amassed over 1,300 rushing yards this season to go along with 14 rushing touchdowns. Etienne is a home run threat every time he touches the ball, which is why he’s averaging close to nine yards per carry. The Gamecocks are solid defensively, but they’re bound to make at least a couple of mistakes that allow Etienne to break loose.
The Clemson passing attack isn’t much easier to defend. Trevor Lawrence has been at the top of his game over the past month, throwing 13 touchdown passes and no interceptions over his last four games while also completing over 75% of his passes during that span. Of course, the Tigers have a set of wide receivers that can make just about any quarterback look good, making life easy for Lawrence.
Meanwhile, I don’t think the Gamecocks have the firepower to cope with a shootout. Last week’s loss to Texas A&M made it clear that freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski has hit a wall. He was just 16 of 41 throwing the ball for a mere 175 yards. He’s struggled against top competition this year, and it doesn’t get much harder than facing the Clemson defense. The Gamecocks have had a reliable running game all season, but that won’t be enough to keep pace with the Tigers, and I’m just not sure Hilinski will be able to rise to the occasion, especially against a vicious Clemson pass rush.
In the end, I’m expecting another textbook Clemson blowout this week. The Gamecocks will make things interesting for a quarter or two, but the Tigers are too good on both sides of the ball not to eventually run away with this game. After the way Clemson has blown out teams over their last six games, covering 27 points should be a breeze.