One team in the Palmetto State is “Livin’ on A Prayer”, and the other is hoping some of their prayers are answered this week.
The Clemson Tigers are hoping to continue on their train of success heading into homecoming with Wake Forest, while the South Carolina Gamecocks are looking for anything positive to hang their hats on. We start with the Columbia kickoff.
South Carolina (-2) vs. Arkansas
This is a game that’s very tough to read because it has similarities to last week.
A team coming in with poor defensive numbers and an offense that seems one-dimensional will go against a Gamecocks defensive unit which has played better than expectations. The problem lies in the fact that South Carolina’s offense is “no-dimensional” continuing to sputter out in the red zone and staring at a four-straight three-and-out sequence that cost them a win at Texas A&M.
If the Gamecocks are going to take any kind of step forward like many projected in the preseason, this has to be the week the tide turns. No one is going to be impressed if South Carolina goes into Knoxville next week and feasts like crows on the dying corpse that is Tennessee. They need to turn to the ingenuity and variety of an offense that won them games with NC State and Missouri to diversify a unit that has looked more bland than a pint of Breyer’s Vanilla Bean.
The Gamecocks defense can’t be blamed for last week’s loss, despite my disagreeing with Travaris Robinson’s philosophy not to spy on Kellen Mond. What they can take away, however, is a little help from their friends at Texas A&M. The Aggies defensive game plan against South Carolina would work wonders for the Gamecocks against Arkansas. Sell out at all costs to stop the run, and make Austin Allen beat you with the pass.
If you asked Arkansas fans about Allen, they would tell you he has underperformed his expectations as a Razorback. He was recruited behind his brother, and brought about the promise of superceding Brandon Allen’s legacy. The younger Allen has far from done that, and remains a big reason why the Hogs Head Coach is looking over his shoulder at a snarling fan base displeased with a lack of results during his tenure.
The one constant remains with South Carolina’s inconsistency in the ability to produce points. We said last week if there was a defense this group could get healthy against it was Texas A&M, but Arkansas has shown similar vulnerability. Get to Austin Allen, get off the field on third down and don’t miss opportunities in the red zone.
South Carolina might not be favored in a conference game the rest of the way if they lose this one. They desperately need a win to spark a turnaround, look for them to achieve it.
Pick: South Carolina 28, Arkansas 21
Clemson (-22) vs. Wake Forest
Make no mistake, Dabo Swinney is a master motivator.
Even as I was sitting in the new Clemson Football Facility, even I was trying to talk myself into the Demon Deacons being a contender for the ACC Atlantic as Swinney waxed poetic about their qualities. He even went so far as to say, “If any of you disagree, you have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Swinney is smart, as he knows that despite his pleas for his players to not read the press clippings, they’re searching the words “Clemson” to find out every piece of ink spilled on their team.
He knows the players will see his words, and he knows that he has the skins on the wall to get his players to believe him.
Wake Forest is an improved team, and one that has taken the next step under Dave Clawson. John Wolford is an experienced quarterback, who brings similar challenges to the Clemson defense as Lamar Jackson and Joshua Jackson with his mobility. They return their top four rushers from last year, and have averaged 34 points-per-game, a staunch rise from a year ago.
Clemson, however, has conquered steeper mountains, and slayed bigger dragons than the one they will see on Homecoming. The most feared opponent left on their schedule isn’t Florida State, NC State, or even the in-state rival Gamecocks.
Clemson’s biggest enemy is, in fact, Clemson.
As long as the Tigers don’t get in their own way like the Pittsburgh game last year, there are no barriers to a perfect regular season and a berth to the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte. There isn’t another team left in the seven games they play that will come close to the opponents the Tigers have already defeated.
Even if Clemson loses, they will only have themselves to blame. They’re clicking on all cylinders, and until I see the engine blow before my eyes, I don’t expect that to change.
Pick: Clemson 38, Wake Forest 10
Now it’s your turn, leave your predictions, picks and reactions in the comments below…