Every team in the ACC has a couple games they wish they had back from 2012. Whether they didn’t bring their A-game, or the other guys just got lucky, every school would love another shot at an opponent, for the ability to prove it won’t happen again. Luckily, because of conference play and parity in the ACC, many will get a chance at redemption immediately, with rematches already on the books for 2013.
As part of our 2013 college football season preview, we’ll be running through the biggest “payback” games for each school. As no team finished with just one loss, there are likely multiple choices for each — none more “right’ than another, necessarily. Still, every selection should help provide some extra motivation for fans as they gear up for this season’s slate of games.
Team: Clemson Tigers
Opponent: South Carolina Gamecocks
Last Year: Loss, 27-17 vs. South Carolina
This Year: November 30, at South Carolina
Win or lose the previous year, each iteration of the Battle of the Palmetto State will always be the most important game on Clemson’s schedule. And for a very long time, the Tigers had the upper hand in the clash between them and their cross-state rivals, South Carolina. In recent years, things have changed however, and the SEC’s Gamecocks are now riding a four-game winning streak that’s allowed coach Steve Spurrier to crow about his squad’s superiority even more so than normal. The war of words between Spurrier and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has added fuel to the fire and intensity of this matchup, but not wins for the Tigers. Swinney, who secured the full-time head coaching job with a victory over South Carolina in 2008, has not won this grudge match since. He hopes that changes in 2013, as there’s arguably never been more on the line for both teams to end the season.
Last year’s iteration was wild enough — the 11th-ranked and 12th-ranked programs in the country, respectively, going at it for in-state supremacy. But despite the fanfare around the Tigers’ offense, Clemson was effectively shut down all game, playing second-fiddle to a surprisingly effective Gamecocks attack. Backup quarterback Dylan Thompson threw for three touchdowns against CU’s beleaguered secondary and to make matters worse, the Tigers’ offense was completely terrorized by Jadeveon Clowney (who recorded 4.5 sacks) all day. Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, who’d been on a statistical tear all season, was held to just 183 yards and a touchdown on 11-of-24 passing. For all intents and purposes, it was a nightmare scenario.
The 2013 edition could have even more on the line than just a couple 10-win seasons. Both South Carolina and Clemson are slated as top-10 teams to start this season and could very well climb to even further heights. Of course, each will be tested numerous times before the season finale, but there’s at least an outside chance this game could be for a BCS berth, at the very least, and an assumed National Championship shot at the very most. For the Palmetto State, the stakes may never be higher, as it will very likely be the center of the college football universe come November 30. But can Clemson stop Clowney this time around?
With a more experienced offensive line than last year, they stand a better chance, though Boyd’s also likely to have reached the peak of his mobility (and yet was still taking hits all game). The key for Clemson will be a quick release. If Boyd can target running backs in the flat and/or utilize his tight ends, that’s the only shot the Tigers have at maintaining their offense. We’ve all seen what happens when Clowney’s allowed to dictate a gameplan, so that’s not an option. Clemson’s learned plenty from last year to this year, but regardless of how high they climb in the rankings, it’s no longshot to say they’ve never faced a better Gamecocks squad either.
Previously: Boston College