Can Clemson continue its dominance over USC sans Watson?


For Clemson to make its way to a third straight College Football Playoff this season, they know they have to take down Florida State again. They would also, of course, have to prevail in the ACC Championship Game.

But perhaps most importantly for Clemson’s rabid fan base, they have to go to Columbia and take care of business against arch rival South Carolina Nov. 25.

Clemson allowed USC to win five straight games in the series from 2009 to 2013 — the longest winning streak in the history of the rivalry for the Gamecocks. But over the past three seasons the Tigers have reversed the trend. Clemson has outscored South Carolina 128-56 in the last three match-ups going back to 2014, including last year’s 56-7 blowout in Death Valley.

This time around, however, the Tigers will be returning to Williams-Brice Stadium. And they’ll be doing it without Deshaun Watson, the greatest quarterback in school history.

The Gamecocks seem to always find it when they play the Tigers at home — even when they don’t win.

Last time around in Columbia, a South Carolina squad that finished 3-9 staged a second half comeback after falling behind 21-3 early in the third quarter. The Tigers ultimately prevailed, 37-32, and moved on to the College Football Playoff. But it was a much more stressful ending than Dabo Swinney would have preferred.

The previous time Clemson won in Columbia was 2007, in another nip-and-tuck affair that ended 23-21 in the Tigers’ favor. 2005 was much of the same story — a 13-9 defensive struggle that went Clemson’s way. Clemson never has it easy in Columbia, even on those occasions when they leave town victoriously.

South Carolina is in the midst of a rebuilding phase under Will Muschamp. The Gamecocks are return 16 starters, including 10 on offense.

The Tigers, on the other hand, must revamp the offense this summer after losing a wealth of talent. By the time these two squads get together in late November, both will have had time to figure it all out.

For Clemson, winning this game will take more than precision and execution. They will have to match South Carolina’s intensity.

Regardless of their record, the Gamecocks will be ready to take the Tigers on, intent on ruining their chances of more gridiron glory. It shouldn’t take Swinney a whole lot of inspirational speeches to get his players ready for the return trip to Columbia.


Read More

Dabo Swinney: You have to be even more thorough once you have success