The South Carolina Gamecocks won’t play in a bowl game… unless you count this game against the Clemson Tigers as a bowl. As difficult as this season has been for the Gamecocks, beating Clemson would wash away a lot of pain and frustration.
By Matt Zemek
No, no one is expecting an upset, and few people would reasonably say this game is likely to be close. Yet, stranger things have happened in 150 years of college football. Moreover, this Clemson team – while undeniably great – almost lost to North Carolina and has not been absolutely brilliant on offense this season.
Stranger things have happened.
1 – Total freedom
No team wants to be 4-7 through 11 games. No team wants to arrive at its Thanksgiving weekend rivalry game knowing it won’t go to a bowl game. This is not a desirable position.
BUT… if you ARE going to inhabit this position, you might as well enjoy it and live it up.
I say this for any team in the situation South Carolina faces: If you are playing your last game of the season as a huge underdog, what do you have to lose? Really? What are the negative consequences if you lose by 60 points instead of 30 or 15?
Take every chance in the book if you are Will Muschamp. Play and coach with total freedom. This is the good part of being under .500: You can’t be hurt any more than you already are! Go for more fourth downs! Fake more kicks! Try some surprise onside kicks. Force Clemson to make more plays and more reactions under pressure. You can ruin Clemson’s season, so make the Tigers sweat out those fourth and threes which would normally be punts. If you can convert them with a few clever pass plays, the Tigers might panic midway through the third quarter, realizing they aren’t playing a normal opponent in a normal game.
Again, this is not a desirable situation for South Carolina, but now that the Gamecocks are here, they should play and coach without fear and enjoy this experience. Make Clemson suffer.
2 – The big play
South Carolina hit big vertical pass plays a year ago against Clemson. The Gamecocks have to find a way to do that again. You’re not going to go 13 plays, 80 yards, and seven minutes against this Clemson defense. Let’s not pretend that is realistic. The Gamecocks need to avoid the red zone by hitting long-ball touchdowns. Shoot your shot, dream big, and test that Clemson secondary.
3 – Red zone on defense
While South Carolina doesn’t want to get into the red zone on offense, it wants to get into the red zone on defense. Clemson will get its share of yards. It’s a matter of not allowing the Tigers to get the day’s most important yards. Bend-but-don’t-break is the defensive approach which can limit Clemson’s scoring output and generate a win.