The RivalryWHO: South Carolina vs. Clemson WHEN: Nov. 24 (7 p.m.)WHERE: Memorial Stadium, ClemsonTV: ESPN or ESPN2
COLUMBIA — For the third consecutive year, the South Carolina- Clemson football game will be in prime time — a sign of the rivalry’s increasing profile on the national stage.
It was announced Monday that next Saturday’s game in Clemson will kick off at 7 p.m. and air on ESPN or ESPN2. It likely will be one of the most anticipated games in the history of the rivalry, which began in 1896. From 2004-09, USC-Clemson was a night game just twice (2005 and 2007) and a noon game four times.
Clemson is 9-1 and No. 11 in The Associated Press poll entering this weekend’s home game against North Carolina State. USC is 8-2 and No. 12 entering its home game against Wofford.
USC and Clemson have never met when both were ranked in the top 10. The only time they met as top 15 teams was in 1987, when No. 12 USC beat No. 8 Clemson 20-7 in Columbia. USC is 3-1 against Clemson when both teams are ranked, having also won in 1979 and last season in Columbia. Clemson won 16-14 in 2000, when both teams were ranked.
The Gamecocks have won three straight over Clemson — 34-13 in 2011, 29-7 in 2010 and 34-17 in 2009 — and are trying to win four straight for the second time ever and first time since 1951-54.
Clemson leads the overall series 65-40-4, and a Sugar Bowl bid could be on the line for the Tigers as they try to get win No. 66. Before the past three years, the Tigers hadn’t even lost back-to-back games to the Gamecocks since they dropped three straight from 1968-70. From 1971-2008, USC went 10-27-1 against the Tigers.
While the history of the series is interesting, the matchup that likely will decide this year’s game is Clemson’s passing attack and the Gamecocks’ pass defense.
The Tigers are No. 12 nationally with 322.1 passing yards per game — the best aerial offense the Gamecocks will face this season. The Tigers are efficient, too, as they rank No. 10 with nine yards per pass attempt. Quarterback Tajh Boyd is No. 4 nationally with 9.5 yards per attempt and has 28 touchdowns and nine interceptions, while completing 68 percent of his passes.
The Gamecocks rank No. 36 nationally with 206.5 passing yards allowed per game and No. 32 with 6.6 yards per attempt allowed. A big part of their pass defense is their pass rush, which has resulted in them accumulating 34 sacks this season, seventh-most in the country.
USC’s pass defense numbers took a hit two games ago, when Tennessee gained 381 passing yards, and 8.7 per attempt. The Gamecocks were better in last week’s win over Arkansas, limiting the Razorbacks to 277 passing yards and 6.8 yards per attempt. D.J. Swearinger’s 69-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter sealed the victory.
In a difficult three-game October stretch (Georgia, LSU and Florida), USC faced three offenses that do not lean nearly as much on the pass as Tennessee, Arkansas and Clemson do. Georgia, LSU and Florida rank Nos. 95, 103 and 118 in pass attempts per game, while Tennessee, Arkansas and Clemson are Nos. 21, 34 and 41.