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Three Keys to South Carolina Upsetting Clemson

By BJ Bennett
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What the underdog Gamecocks must do Saturday night at Clemson.

South Carolina enters the weekend having already clinched bowl eligibility, now looking to spoil Clemson's season by knocking their rivals out of the College Football Playoff. Below are three keys to the Gamecocks pulling off what would be a major upset Saturday night in Death Valley;

1. Win the Turnover Battle -- This is an absolute must and is a common theme in many upset victories. South Carolina leads the SEC with a +10 margin in the game's most-important statistical category. Since mid-September, the Gamecocks have forced multiple turnovers in all but two outings and have created at least one in every game since the season-opener. Linebacker T.J. Holloman and defensive backs Chris Lammons and Jamarcus King all have three interceptions. The Tigers have struggled taking care of the football, having lost possession 22 times, the fourth-worst total in the ACC. In Clemson's defeat to Pittsburgh, quarterback Deshaun Watson threw three interceptions. Dating back to 2014, the Tigers have had a negative turnover margin in their last three losses. For true freshman signal caller Jake Bentley, playing in an extremely hostile environment, making sound decisions will be critical.

2. Hold Serve at the Line of Scrimmage -- Clemson boasts one of the nation's premier defensive lines, with Christian Wilkins, Carlos Watkins and Dexter Lawrence having combined for 26 tackles for loss. South Carolina has allowed the most sacks in the SEC, 33, and the third-most tackles for loss, 84, in all of power five football. Establishing some consistency in the trenches would likely allow the running game to develop and give Jake Bentley time when the Gamecocks do throw. Up front, South Carolina needs its best game of the year. Defending the interior of the field against running back Wayne Gallman, and getting pressure on Deshaun Watson, will be key to getting the Tigers off the field.  

3. Home Run Plays -- With two games left, the Gamecocks have just one play of over 50 yards this fall, the fewest in the SEC. To move the football against Clemson, it may take chunk plays to advance South Carolina down the field. In addition to the production such conversions compile, those momentum-swinging plays are often especially-important in rivalry games. Deebo Samuel, who has five rushing touchdowns and a kick return for a score, has yet to reach the endzone as a receiver despite leading the Gamecocks with 41 catches. On offense or special teams, he is an x-factor to watch. South Carolina needs highlight-reel moments.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: / Twitter: @BJBennettSports