Nov 2

Clemson Saved by CJ, Gamecocks Dominate Tennessee

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Photo: Greg Cooper, USPresswire.com

Clemson 27, Boston College 21 

CJ Spiller is the reason Clemson was able to leave Boston with a win Saturday. Period. The junior running back had 242 total yards for the game - 105 receiving, 55 rushing, and 82 on returns - and swung the momentum in Clemson's favor several times with key plays.

Spiller never saw the end zone, but his big plays kept the Tigers alive and set them up with field position to continue to put points on the board. He came close to scoring on a 45 yard pass play from Cullen Harper late in the first quarter. He dove towards the end zone marker, but the ref called him out of bounds at the three. The play was symbolic of his efforts on this day. I saw in his play the kind of fight this team needs. He constantly shed tacklers and bursted through open holes. He played with passion, and Spiller is an NFL back when he plays that way.

As usual, the defense played strong, as well. BC converted just 3 of 18 third down conversions, and gained less yards as a team (236) than Spiller did on his own. Safety DeAndre McDaniel forced a key fumble late in the fourth quarter which was recovered by hyped freshman DeQuan Bowers. The rattle-your-brains hard-hitting play was what Tiger fans have been wanting to see all season. Secondary players Michael Hamlin and Kavell Conner also had big games for the Tiger defense. Conner had nine tackles in the game.

Clemson won the time of possesion battle at 32 minutes and change, and also held the lead for most of the contest. But when BC battled back to go up 21 - 17 in the fourth quarter, those who bleed orange had to have been having flashbacks. But this Tger team got hit in the mouth and, thanks to Mr. Spiller's 64 yard kickoff return, hit the other team right back. Clemson retook the lead right away, and this time didn't give it back.

Up next for the Tigers is a trip to Tallahassee to face Florida State. The Seminoles lost Saturday by fumbling late at Georgia Tech, yet at 6-2 and ranked in the top 25, will still be a tough test for this Tiger team. But, with the new enthusiasm and better play-calling on offense, I see no reason CU couldn't deal with FSU. After the trip south, the Tigers return home to play Duke for homecoming, and then travel to UVA. The season closes with South Carolina coming to Death Valley. I see the Tigers beating Duke and the other three games going either way. Currently at 4-4 on the season, 8-4 and 5-7 are both very realistic scenarios for Clemson.

The win will go down in the Clemson record books for all to remember as it was the first under Interim Head Coach, Dabo Swinney. Doused with Gatorade, and fresh out of a sincere embrace from AD Terry Don Phillips, Swinney told the television interviewer that this team was "all in". The way they played Saturday, snapping a three game skid to get back to .500 and beating a team that has beaten them three straight in the past three years, I would say that yes, he indeed has them "all in." This team could have folded with all of the coaching unrest. But Swinney has stressed unity and team togetherness, and in his first ACC road game, he brought home a dearly needed W. All in.

South Carolina 27, Tennessee 6

There is no doubt that South Carolina and Tennessee are headed in two different directions. The Gamecocks of USC may finish 4th in the SEC East this year, but for a change, they will not be looking up at the Volunteers. Instead, the Cocks are improving while the Vols will be starting over with a new coaching staff as soon as this season comes to a close.

USC beat Tennessee up and down the field Saturday night, leading 21-0 at the half, and will now begin positioning for one of the SEC's many bowl tie-ins. If USC is able to beat Arkansas at home next weekend, the Cocks would be at 7-3, with the needed six D-1 wins needed to go bowling. If they are unable to pull off the win there, games at Florida and Clemson will present two more chances for South Carolina to make a bowl.

USC quarterback Stephen Garcia went 9 for 19 for 139 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He didnt play an overally impressive game, but the fact is that South Carolina put up 20 points under his guidance  (7 more came on an interception return) and took home a SEC win. Mike Davis and the Cocks running game accounted for 101 yards on 44 carries. Each team had 11 first downs and were 3 of 17 (UT) and 4 of 17 (USC) on third downs.

The South Carolina defense played extremly well. They had six sacks for a combined loss of 40 yards and also had an interception and two fumbles recovered. The unit, which is becoming the team's backbone while providing the offense a chance to improve, held UT to 3 of 17 on third down conversions and just 3.5 yards per play.

I know Tennessee is a struggling squad at this time under an embattled leader. But this win is big for the Cocks because it is over a team that USC has had trouble defeating (just twice in SEC play in 16 years - 1992 and 2005) and because it will have an impact on recruiting battles. South Carolina now has Arkansas at home before heading to Florida and Clemson. I see the Cocks going 1-1 with Clemson as a game that could go either way. 7-5 or 8-4, with a bowl game, would not be a bad season at all.

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