Trying to Recover

Clemson's heartbreaking home loss last week denied the Tigers a spot in the ACC championship game. Now, their challenge is to find the motivation to close their regular season with a win over their in-state archrival.

With their title drought reaching 16 years, No. 21 Clemson looks to bounce back Saturday night when it travels to South Carolina for the 105th meeting between the teams.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Clemson –2.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 59% of bets for this game have been placed on Clemson –2.5 (View College Football bet percentages).

The Tigers (8-3) were on the verge of taking the second-to-last step to their first conference crown since 1991 last week, as they led Boston College 17-13 with less than two minutes left. Clemson, though, became the latest team to fall victim to the comeback ability of the Eagles and Matt Ryan, who found Rich Gunnell for a 43-yard TD with 1:46 to go for a 20-17 win that stunned and silenced the sold-out Memorial Stadium.

Clemson coach Tommy Bowden will now look to get his team to put aside its disappointment and focus on South Carolina - something he thinks the Tigers won't have trouble doing because of the opponent.

"It's going to be tough but we need to get the players to bounce back; It's a big game to a lot of people," Bowden said. "But it is a rivalry game and I know our team will be motivated."

Most important for Bowden will be getting his team's ground game back on track. Clemson averages 153.8 rushing yards per game, second in the conference, but its talented tailback tandem of James Davis and C.J. Spiller was held to 62 yards on 23 carries last week by the top run defense in the ACC.

"They were able to make us one-dimensional," Bowden said.

If any team can help Bowden's team rebound mentally from such a devastating loss, it's South Carolina. Clemson leads a series that dates to 1896 by a 63-37-4 margin and has taken four of the last five matchups, although it lost 31-28 last year.

One of those games was a 29-7 Clemson victory on Nov. 20, 2004, when the teams engaged in an ugly brawl late in the game that led to both schools giving up postseason bids. Six players from each team were suspended one game.

South Carolina (6-5) comes into this contest playing its worst football of the season. The Gamecocks, losers of four in a row, were off last week after suffering a 51-31 defeat to then-No. 17 Florida on Nov. 10. The week before, coach Steve Spurrier's team fell 48-36 to Arkansas.

With six wins, South Carolina is no lock for a bowl. The SEC has 10 teams bowl eligible and Vanderbilt just a win away with only eight bowl spots guaranteed. Spurrier hasn't missed a bowl since his first Florida team was on probation in 1990, and hasn't had a non-winning season in college since going 5-6 his first year at Duke in 1987.

"It is what it is," Spurrier said. "We're just not a really good team right now."

The Ol' Ballcoach would like nothing more than to solidify South Carolina's bowl hopes with a victory over his team's biggest rival.

"We've had a week off," Spurrier told the Tigers' official Web site. "They had a big game that didn't work out for them. It was a down-to-the-wire game. Clemson was very unfortunate. I thought Clemson was the better team, but sometimes it doesn't work out. It just didn't work out for them.

"I'm hoping that our guys will play a lot harder and with a lot more effort and that we don't get run over. Offensively - take care of the ball and hopefully play smarter. Boston College did a good job of holding Clemson to not very many running yards. Hopefully, we have athletes close to what Boston College has."

Spurrier hopes he continues to get strong play out of his quarterback, Blake Mitchell, who was 26-of-42 for 316 yards and a touchdown against the Gators. He has thrown for at least 290 yards in South Carolina's last three games.

The last two matchups in this rivalry have been close. Ryan Succop's fourth-quarter field goal last year gave the Gamecocks their first win in the series since 2001, while Clemson took the 2005 matchup 13-9.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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