The South Carolina Gamecocks know how to stir excitement. If they don’t bring former tone-setting safety D.J. Swearinger out to fire up the crowd at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday night, it might be other players from the Steve Spurrier glory years. Or a fiery talk from head basketball coach Frank Martin.
Or all of that.
This Clemson team loves it.
Only Alabama and Ohio State and Dabo Swinney’s defending national champs get the best shot from foe after foe every week of the season.
“We embrace the target,” Clemson linebacker Dorian O’Daniel said this week.
We embrace Rivalry Week with its passion, twists and nuances — not just Gamecocks vs. Tigers but all over the country.
Warren Peper and I take one more stab at Pigskin Picks for 2017:
Clemson at South Carolina
These Gamecocks do not back down and haven’t been badly beaten. They are rarely out of position. A defense run by head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson keeps big plays to a minimum.
Clemson grinds, but with talent. They pounce: 70-13 edge in points off turnovers despite a mere plus-3 turnover margin.
It won’t be 56-7 like last year.
“This football team competes,” Muschamp said. “That’s one thing when you turn the tape on, you will see great effort. You will see guys running to the ball. You will see guys offensively finishing plays."
The better team usually wins in this series.
Gene Sapakoff pick: Clemson, 27-17
Warren Peper pick: Clemson, 31-20
Alabama at Auburn
Injuries to Columbia’s Christian Miller and others have made the Crimson Tide uncharacteristically but noticeably thin at linebacker, not good when facing the likes of Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson.
Sapakoff pick: Alabama, 20-17
Peper pick: Auburn, 27-24
Georgia at Georgia Tech
Kirby Smart lost to the Yellow Jackets (28-27) last year. This year, Georgia held brief triple-option preparation “Tech periods” at practice each Monday of the season.
Sapakoff pick: Georgia, 35-14
Peper pick: Georgia, 28-24
North Carolina at N.C. State
Bradley Chubb is a scary matchup against the Tar Heels’ beat-up offensive line. N.C. State’s All-America candidate defensive end had five tackles for loss and 2½ sacks in last week’s loss to Wake Forest.
Sapakoff pick: N.C. State, 31-16
Peper pick: N.C. State, 27-17
Florida State at Florida
The Seminoles have won six of the last seven in this series. The exception: 2012, when Will Muschamp led the Gators to a 37-26 win in Tallahassee.
Sapakoff pick: Florida State, 24-14
Peper pick: Florida State, 34-28
Duke at Wake Forest
The ACC has three non-conference wins over teams in the current College Football Playoff top 25: Clemson over Auburn, Virginia over Boise State, Duke over Northwestern.
Sapakoff pick: Wake Forest, 28-21
Peper pick: Wake Forest, 30-20
Louisville at Kentucky
Lamar Jackson’s final regular-season game is a chance for revenge. Jackson was outplayed by Kentucky’s Stephen Johnson in the Wildcats’ 41-38 victory last year.
Sapakoff pick: Louisville, 45-24
Peper pick: Louisville, 38-31
West Virginia at Oklahoma
Mountaineers quarterback Will Grier, son of Oceanside Collegiate Academy (Mount Pleasant) head coach Chad Grier, suffered a broken middle finger against Texas last week, had surgery on Sunday and will travel to Norman to cheer his teammates on Saturday.
Sapakoff pick: Oklahoma, 41-17
Peper pick: Oklahoma, 48-38
Ohio State at Michigan
The Buckeyes, deservedly or not, are probably in the playoff with a win here and against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Sapakoff pick: Ohio State, 34-14
Peper pick: Ohio State, 27-17
Notre Dame at Stanford
Stanford running back Bryce Love’s best and last chance to make up Heisman Trophy ground on Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Sapakoff pick: Stanford, 28-27
Peper pick: Notre Dame, 28-20
Warren Peper 7-3, Gene Sapakoff 7-3
Gene Sapakoff 91-28, Warren Peper 87-32
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff