South Carolina wraps up its 2015 season with a home game against in-state rival Clemson.
The Gamecocks aren’t playing for SEC championships or bowl eligibility, but they have plenty of reasons for trying to spoil Clemson’s season.
South Carolina has played Clemson more than any other team in school history. So when it comes to the 113th all-time meeting between these rivals, anything goes.
Here are three reasons why South Carolina could pull off the upset against Clemson:
Clemson’s 35-17 victory over South Carolina in 2014 snapped a five-year losing streak to the Gamecocks. South Carolina’s average margin of victory during that span was almost 17 points.
Furthermore, it ended a four-year period in which South Carolina dominated non-conference opponents. The Gamecocks had won 18 consecutive non-conference games before falling to Clemson in their regular-season finale in 2014. That streak spanned back to 2010, when South Carolina lost to Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
South Carolina has already begun to restart that streak. The Gamecocks are 2-0 in non-conference games this season, with wins over North Carolina and UCF.
This year’s game will be held at Williams-Brice Stadium, where South Carolina has won three consecutive meetings.
Playing for Elliott
South Carolina interim coach Shawn Elliott has received the backing of his players time and time again. However, he has been unable to earn a signature victory since taking over for Steve Spurrier.
If you were to look at South Carolina’s schedule when Elliott took over, two of the premier opportunities to nab a statement win would have been at home to Florida and the finale against Clemson.
South Carolina already fell short against the Gators, but the team still has a prime opportunity to take down Clemson. If the players really want Elliott to maintain his position on a full-time basis, here’s the game to prove it.
Elliott is 1-3 as interim coach, but he has helped improve the Gamecocks since taking over. The offense posted its two highest yardage totals of the season in consecutive games against Vanderbilt and Texas A&M. And for a team that was 2-4 before Elliott took over, South Carolina has since notched its first SEC victory and lost three games against Texas A&M, Tennessee and Florida by a combined 20 points.
It’s hard to deny the impact Elliott has had on the South Carolina players, both emotionally and on the football field. The question is whether they can channel that energy into one game against Clemson to make the case for Elliott keeping his job.
1-0 vs. No. 1, plus a new quarterback?
South Carolina has not hosted a No. 1-ranked team since 2010, when Alabama rolled into Williams-Brice Stadium. The Gamecocks handed the Tide a 35-21 loss to secure their first victory over the top team in the nation.
Of course, that was a special year for the Gamecocks. The Head Ball Coach was named SEC Coach of the Year, and that year’s team was chock-full of talent — the likes of Marcus Lattimore, Alshon Jeffery, Stephen Garcia, Stephon Gilmore and so on.
Barring a colossal collapse against Wake Forest this Saturday, Clemson will be the next No. 1 team to come through Columbia, S.C.
Clemson is 10-0 for just the third time in school history and for the first time since 1981, while South Carolina is 0-3 against ranked opponents this season.
Adding intrigue to this showdown could be the potential return of quarterback Connor Mitch. After South Carolina’s loss to Florida, Elliott admitted he considered putting Mitch back on the field to replace starter Perry Orth.
Mitch has been back at practice for weeks since separating his shoulder and suffering a hip bruise during the loss to Kentucky. Perhaps he or Lorenzo Nunez could see added time behind center to spark the Gamecocks offense against rival Clemson.
That would give South Carolina a whole new look on the offensive side of the ball. Two of the team’s three wins have come with Mitch or Nunez starting at quarterback. Mitch or Nunez have been forced from their other two starts because of injury.