Gamecocks, Tigers tangle with 10-win season at stake

The first one to 10 wins, or in this case, the winner is the first one to 10 wins.

In-state rivals South Carolina and Clemson have met every year since 1909, but rarely have they clashed when both teams were enjoying so much success.

The rivals will meet as two ranked opponents for only the fourth time in history – and the first since 2000  – when the No. 12 Gamecocks host the No. 17 Tigers in the annual Palmetto State showdown Saturday in Columbia.

Clemson leads the series 65-39-4, but South Carolina has won the past two meetings. The Gamecocks won 34-17 at home in 2009 and 29-7 at Clemson last year.

South Carolina (9-2) has not won three straight in the series since 1968-70. The Gamecocks have won 12 straight regular-season, non-conference games.

Clemson (9-2) has more wins against South Carolina than any other school. The Tigers will use the in-state showdown as a bridge to their conference championship game.

The Tigers are looking to cement their first 10-win season since 1990, the last of four consecutive 10-win campaigns.

They are also trying to get healthy as star freshman wide receiver Sammy Watkins (shoulder), offensive tackle Philip Price (knee), wide receiver Martavis Bryant (neck) and offensive tackle Brandon Thomas (knee) all missed last week’s 37-13 loss to N.C. State.

Watkins is expected to play, but Price, Bryant and Thomas are listed as questionable. Watkins already owns the ACC freshman record for all-purpose yards (1,872) and leads the ACC in receptions (68), receiving yards (1,034) and touchdown receptions (10).

Despite plenty of adversity – quarterback Stephen Garcia was dismissed from the team after being benched following a rough start to the season and star running back Marcus Lattimore suffered a season-ending knee injury – the Gamecocks are enjoying one of the best seasons in their history.

They are on the cusp of only their second 10-win season ever, and their first since 1984, and they’ve won nine or more games in back-to-back seasons for the first time.

South Carolina’s defense, which ranks fifth in the nation in total defense (279.45 yards) and second in pass defense (137.55), will be tested against the duo of Watkins and Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd.

EXTRA POINTS:

1. Clemson running back Andre Ellington and South Carolina wide receiver/kick returner Bruce Ellington, cousins and high school teammates at Berkeley High School, will square off, and each wear No. 23.

2. South Carolina’s seniors, who are playing their final game at Williams-Brice Stadium, have won a school-record 32 games. The previous mark was 29 set last year.

3. The teams have not met with the same record since 1994, when both were 5-5 before South Carolina’s 33-7 win.

TV: ESPN, 7:45 p.m. LINE: South Carolina -3.5.

Photo courtesy of USC Athletics

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