Snap Judgments – 2021 Clemson @ USC Edition

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Our Clemson Problem. From 2009 to 2013 Steve Spurrier and South Carolina owned Clemson like no other time in the rivalry’s history. Clemson had consistently good (not great) teams, finishing in the top 25 three times and the top 10 twice, which made the winning streak that much sweeter. As the streak grew I even commented multiple times about how the Gamecocks were “in the heads” of Clemson. The Tigers came to fear the block C when they saw it, and despite their best efforts they couldn’t find a way to beat USC.

The game in 2014 at Clemson started swimmingly for South Carolina. The Gamecocks took the lead on a 20-yard Pharoh Cooper run and the same refrain echoed in my mind – even at 6-5 -we’re in their heads. Alas, it didn’t last long, as Deshaun Watson and Wayne Gallman and Artavis Scott proceeded to gash a porous USC defense and end the five-game losing streak. It was a turning point for Clemson as a football program, and a turning point in the rivalry.

Since then, there has been one close game, in 2015. Miraculously a Spurrier-less squad hung tough and lost 37-32 against a Clemson team that would eventually lose the 2016 National Championship game to Alabama. In the games since then we have lost by 49, 24, 21, 35 and 30. That’s an average losing margin of 31.8 points over five games, and it’s embarrassing and unacceptable in a rivalry that was lopsided in the first place.

I’ve preached in this space about being competitive against elite competition. Our track record against Clemson the last five years is the opposite of competitive. Other than recruiting and coaching better I don’t know what the answer is. Spurrier famously took down the “beat Clemson” signs in the USC locker room and said “I want to beat everybody” and in effect de-emphasized the importance of the rivalry.

Regardless of how we get there, it is becoming critical that we start closing the gap on Clemson. And in a year with many positive accomplishments by our new coaching staff, I’m afraid the gap widened even further last night.

We have to get them out of our heads.

If you had told me… I lost count of how many tweets I saw last night after our caning that said something to the effect “if you had told me back in August we’d be 6-6 and going to a bowl game yadda yadda yadda”. People have to right to prop up Shane Beamer and the job he has done this year to squeeze six wins out of this schedule with this level of talent*. I’m on the Shane train too, somewhere in the middle of the caboose looking for a comfortable place to sit down.

*Side note: for those still talking about going from two wins last year to six wins this year dare I remind you we played an all-SEC schedule last year and didn’t have the luxury of playing Eastern Illinois, East Carolina and Troy.

My problem with the “if you had told me back in August” argument is we’re skipping everything that helps us form our opinion of this team. We have sliced and diced every game and have come to many conclusions that may or may not support our being happy with six wins. If you’re happy that’s great, and if you’re not particularly happy, I think that’s ok too, because HOW we got here is just as important as the record. Let’s review:

  • Eastern Illinois – whatever, we could’ve rolled out the JV squad and beat them by 20.
  • East Carolina – very bad offensive performance, escaped an average group of five team by 3 points.
  • Georgia – landed some shots, but overall completely outclassed by the best team in the country.
  • Kentucky – bad, bad, bad home loss to a decent team, missed opportunity because our offense stinks.
  • Troy – typical mid-season struggle against a team we should dominate. (FYI, Georgia State beat them by four touchdowns yesterday.)
  • Tennessee – embarrassing loss to another team with a first-year head coach.
  • Vanderbilt – needed a minor miracle to beat the absolute worst team in power five.
  • Texas A&M – have I used the word embarrassing enough yet? TAMU finished 8-4 by the way.
  • Florida – YAY, fun game!
  • Missouri – Boo, horrible game against a team we should be benchmarking ourselves against.
  • Auburn – Wow, big upset, hope for the Clemson game!
  • Clemson – …………….

When you look at it that way, maybe it gives you a different perspective on those six wins and how we got here. There is still a LOT to be cleaned up. We need to assert ourselves against teams like Vandy and Troy, we need to pass Kentucky and Missouri sooner rather than later, and we need to be able to play competitively into the fourth quarter against Texas A&M, Georgia and Clemson.

I’m not telling any of you to not be positive, please do. But the realistic side of me tells me we may have further to go than the Florida or Auburn games tell us.

Satter-fired. Marcus Satterfield has been relieved of his offensive coordinator duties by almost all Gamecock fans. Whether or not Shane Beamer actually does it remains to be seen. But this offense has been the main point of pain for us the entire season. Satterfield has stated, somewhat arrogantly, that this offense if one that is “being run on Sundays”. That’s nice, but on Saturdays it has ranked 13th out of 14 teams in the SEC in pretty much every major category.

One way to overcome talent deficiencies on offense is through scheme. We need someone creative, and someone who can scheme against the level of defenses we play week in and week out. Here’s hoping there’s a new OC under the Christmas tree.

The QB Carousel. Also needed under the Christmas tree is a QB from the transfer portal. If there’s one thing we all know is that most teams cannot be great without a great signal caller, and I don’t think we have one on the roster at the moment. You can make your case for Luke Doty or even Colton Gauthier, but there is no real evidence either one is “the guy”. If there is an opportunity to make the QB room better through the portal, we HAVE to do it.

Help wanted: Wide receivers. What the heck is going on with every receiver we have besides Josh Vann? Aren’t there other guys on scholarship? Geez.

What’s Next. I apologize if these Snaps are bringing you down, but my realistic side seems to kick in when I actually have time to write. The truth is I really, really like Shane Beamer and the positive energy he has brought to the program. His style is not my favorite all the time, but that’s just the old man in me coming out. More than anything, I want this program to WIN, and I want it sooner rather than later because I’ve been at this for a long time. And I’m obnoxiously competitive, ok?

Anyway, I’m excited about the opportunity to see this team play in any bowl game (even Birmingham!) and about how recruiting is shaping up. We need a big influx of talent over the next few months, and I think the way the program has progressed will allow us to get it.

See you next month, Go Cocks!