CLEMSON -- Saturday's rivalry game features an unstoppable force -- South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore -- versus an immovable object in the Clemson defensive front. But there's another interesting matchup between a stoppable force -- the Clemson passing game -- and a movable object, the USC pass defense.
South Carolina ranks 104th out of 120 FBS teams in pass defense, allowing 250 passing yards per game.
Clemson's pass offense ranks a modest 80th nationally (191 ypg).
Clemson receivers coach Jeff Scott said the statistics are misleading.
"Studying their defensive backs, some of those numbers are inflated due to some big plays," Scott said. "I'd say they're as good as anyone we've played … They've been pretty sound, with a few busts."
The Gamecocks have allowed a number of busted plays. Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett shredded USC for 303 passing yards. Kentucky's go-ahead score came on a secondary bust earlier this season.
Moreover, South Carolina will be without a starting cornerback in Chris Culliver, who is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle, and possibly another corner, Marty
Though South Carolina has struggled at times this season, it does possess a superior talent in cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who is expected to play against Clemson after missing the Troy game with a concussion.
Gilmore was considering Clemson before Tommy Bowden's departure. He is physical and athletic in coverage (two interceptions) and run support, and is also a threat to blitz off the edge (three sacks).
Gilmore is joined in the secondary by DeVonte Holloman, who had committed to Clemson before deciding to go with the Gamecocks.
"They are physical, athletic and run very well," Scott said. "Ninety-five percent of the time they contest everything. They've played guys like (Alabama receiver) Julio Jones and held him in check pretty good."
Jones caught eight passes for 118 yards and a touchdown against USC.
The SEC's other elite wide receiver, A.J. Green, was suspended for the Gamecocks' meeting against Georgia.
While USC is thin in the secondary, Clemson is thin on playmakers, producing just four pass plays of 40 yards or more this season.
Clemson has struggled to make plays downfield for the majority of the season, though the Tigers' passing game performance has improved in recent weeks. Kyle Parker posted a season-best pass efficiency rating at Wake Forest (222) and hit Jaron Brown for a 40-yard touchdown.
Clemson offensive coordinator Billy Napier said after the Wake Forest game he sees improvement in the passing game.
"I think the biggest thing is those young receivers," Napier said. "As that lineup has stayed the same, I think that has helped us and (Parker's) comfort level with those guys."
With Clemson potentially without its best big-play threat in running back Andre Ellington, the passing game will need to keep improving and be something more than a stoppable force.
Check out the Clemson blog at postandcourier.com/blogs/tiger_tracks and follow Travis Sawchik on Twitter (@travis_sawchik).