Clemson vs. South Carolina: Let the smack talk begin

The time is here.  No more peeking around the corner, looking ahead, and hoping for both wins by your team and losses by your rival.  It’s time for the Palmetto state showdown between Clemson and South Carolina, and this is arguable the most anticipated matchup in this storied rivalries history.

Kickoff is set for Saturday night at Williams Brice Stadium in Columbia.  As a sports talk radio show host in the Upstate on WCCP, the flagship station of Clemson athletics, this week is one of the easiest weeks of the year to prepare a show.  Just open the phone lines and let the smack talk begin!  It’s pure radio gold, and this year, both Clemson and Carolina fans have something to feel positive about.

A Gamecock victory secures the first three game winning streak over Clemson since 1966-68.  A Tiger wins sends them in to next weeks ACC Championship Game in Charlotte on a high note.  The winning teams’ fans receive 365 days of uninterrupted bragging rights.  And many would tell you the latter is by far the most important.

On the field, Clemson limps in to this matchup having lost two of their past three games.  The Tigers have a banged up offensive line and freshman sensation Sammy Watkins is still suffering the effects of a shoulder sprain.  This past Saturday’s loss at NC State once again exposed the Tigers defensive weakness against the run, but causes further concern as a once powerful offense has now turned the ball over 11 times in the past three contests.

South Carolina has won nine games for only the fourth time in school history and the Gamecocks have managed to navigate a tumultuous season in which starting quarterback Steven Garcia has been dismissed from the team and sophomore tailback Marcus Lattimore has been lost with a knee injury.  Most Steve Spurrier coached teams have won with offense, but this edition of the Gamecocks has won with defense.

Football is always a game of matchups, and this week is no exception.  However, it should be a matchup of both teams’ strengths versus strengths, and weakness versus weakness.  The Tiger’s offense has shown the propensity to put up big numbers when not committing turnovers.  The Carolina defense has been able to limit their opponent’s success, and this area of the game will be interesting to watch.

Where the outcome of this game may well be determined is when South Carolina has the ball.  Can Clemson’s Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele dial up a game plan that limits the Gamecocks rushing attack and forces sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw to win the game with his arm and not his legs.  Will this be the game that stud wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey is finally able to have some type of breakout game as the 2011 has obviously been a frustrating one for him?

These are all questions that will be answered Saturday night in Columbia.  In the meantime, I will have the privilege of answering phone calls from the likes of “Tiger Rich” and “Gamecock Will” all week telling me why their team is the best in the state and their school will beat the other “52-3”.  And I will chuckle the entire drive home!!

**  Sturgis a sports talk show host on WCCP, 104.9 FM in Clemson, the flagship station of Clemson Tiger athletics.

 

 

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