COLUMBIA — South Carolina football will end its roller-coaster season with the game fans wait for every year: the Palmetto Bowl rivalry match with No. 9 Clemson at Tigers’ Memorial Stadium on Saturday (noon, ABC).
The stakes are high – even higher than usual – for the showdown. The Gamecocks (7-4, 4-4 SEC) are coming off one of the biggest upsets in program history over No. 5 Tennessee, and Clemson (10-1, 8-0 ACC) is looking for a dominant win to make one later Case for college football playoff competition. The Tigers dominated Miami 40-10 in Week 12.
Here’s everything you need to know about the most controversial game in the state of South Carolina:
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History of the Palmetto Bowl
The South Carolina–Clemson rivalry began with the first meeting in 1896, which the Gamecocks won 12–6. The game was originally played every year at Columbia, and Clemson won 27-0 when it was first played in 1960. The Tigers have had a 19-10-1 record against the Gamecocks at Memorial Stadium since 1960. South Carolina leads 53-32-3 at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Clemson, who leads the all-time 72-42-4 streak, is in the midst of the longest winning streak in the history of the rivalry with seven straight wins since 2014. The Tigers previously won seven straight games from 1934-40 and would break the record with an eighth win that year. The Gamecocks’ longest streak came just ahead of Clemson’s with five straight wins from 2009 to 2013.
Clemson’s questions at QB
The Tigers are having a strange year as quarterbacks. Starter DJ Uiagalelei was benched twice — first when Clemson trailed Syracuse in Week 8 and again in a loss to Notre Dame two weeks ago — but has been largely consistent with eight games for 200 yards and five with at least 50 rushing yards . The South Carolina defense is struggling with double threat QBs, which bodes well for the Tigers. The Gamecocks had their worst game of the season against Florida’s Anthony Richardson, who posted 112 yards passing and 96 yards rushing in the Gators’ 38-6 win.
The junior’s biggest concern in the second half of the season was losing possession. Two interceptions and a fumble put him on the bench against Syracuse, and he’s made selections in four of Clemson’s last six games. Turnovers have been a problem for the Tigers overall with 12 in their last four games. They rank in the bottom half of FBS schools in terms of revenue range. The Gamecocks are in the opposite situation with quarterback Spencer Rattler, who has had one interception in the last five games after throwing eights in the first six.
Tigers boast a rock-solid defense
Clemson’s defense was impenetrable in last week’s win against Miami, keeping the Hurricanes on 98 offensive yards, 40 of which came in one game. The Tigers recorded five sacks for a total loss of 48 yards, held Miami on 11 attempts to three third-down conversions and added an interception. Defense is in the top 20 in the country and is even better in the running game, averaging 318 total yards and 104 rushing yards per game.
The unit is anchored by sophomore linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr., the son of former NFL linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, who had nine tackles, a sack and a pass separation against Miami. He has 65 total tackles this season, six tackles for loss, five pass break-ups and five quarterback pressures. Myles Murphy and KJ Henry lead the pass rush with 9.5 sacks and 27 pressings.
Can Gamecocks Replicate Tennessee Magic?
South Carolina coaches and players may question the term “magic,” but that’s how it felt last Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium as the unranked Gamecocks dominated No. 5 Tennessee 63-38. Everything was going well, from Rattler’s career-best rushing yards and six touchdowns to the defense’s key stops against college football’s most prolific offense.
The win, South Carolina’s first win over Tennessee since 2018, was historic. The Gamecocks’ 63 points was the most by an unranked opponent against a top-five team and the most that Tennessee has ever conceded to an unranked opponent.
It’s hard to imagine everything coming together perfectly for the second straight week, but nobody expected it to happen against the Vols. If we’ve learned anything from the excitement, it’s that anything is possible.
31 Clemson, 24 South Carolina: Although they won’t do as well as they did against Tennessee, the Gamecocks put up a respectable fight against Clemson. Rattler has another strong night, but Clemson’s double threat attack overpowers the South Carolina defense to retreat late.