#3 Clemson Tigers (11-0) vs South Carolina Gamecocks (4-7)
Coming off a bye, Clemson will not overlook instate rival South Carolina on road to playoffs.
Coach: Dabo Swinney
Clemson Players to watch
*Junior RB Travis Etienne (5-10/200)
Earlier this month, Etienne broke C.J. Spiller’s record for career touchdowns (51). Currently, Etienne has 51 touchdowns on the ground and four receiving. With two more rushing touchdowns, Etienne would break (Pitt) James Conner’s ACC record for most career rushing touchdowns in conference history. Look for HC Dabo Swinney to get his playmaker the record.
Last week against Wake Forest, Etienne rushed 16 times for 121 yards and a touchdown and caught three passes for 37 yards. With his sixth straight 100-yard rushing performance, he took sole possession of the school record for consecutive 100-yard rushing games, surpassing five-game streaks by Kenny Flowers (1985) and Raymond Priester (1996-97). Following his performance, Etienne was named a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award.
Senior OG John Simpson (6-4/330)
Simpson was recently named one of six semifinalists for the 2019 Outland Trophy. The Outland Trophy is awarded annually to the nation’s best college interior lineman on offense or defense.
Simpson has been a regular in the ACC weekly honor roll with three Offensive Lineman of the Week awards, the latest coming Nov. 11 after grading at 90 percent with four knockdowns in a 55-10 win over N.C. State. Clemson’s offense is averaging 543.1 yards per game, third nationally. It has reached 50 points in a fourth straight game for the first time in program history.
As for pass protection, Simpson is part of a line that has allowed only 12 sacks in its last 19 games. He became the first Clemson offensive lineman to score a touchdown since 2011 with a one-yard plunge against N.C. State. His senior class at Clemson is 52-3 overall the past four seasons. The Tigers have never had an Outland winner but had two semifinalists last year (defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt).
In high school, Simpson led Fort Dorchester to its first football state championship in 2015. The following winter, Simpson won the Class AAAA wrestling state championship in the 285-pound weight class.
*Junior WR Tee Higgins (6-4/210)
Higgins is one of the many potential first round picks on the Clemson Tigers offense. Heading into the final game of the regular season, Higgins has recorded 40 receptions for 799 yards and eight touchdowns in 10 games. The year before, he had 59 receptions for 936 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Higgins’ production at Clemson should come as no surprise. Physically, he is able to extend his catch radius like few others. He’s big, fast, and athletic. Averaging over 20 yards per catch, he has routinely scorched defenses with speed, acceleration, and great angles.
*Junior SLB Isaiah Simmons (6-2/230)
Simmons has been named one of five finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy. The award goes to the best defensive player in college football as voted on by the FWAA All-American Committee.
One of the nation’s top linebackers and Clemson’s most prolific tacklers (74 on the season), Simmons leads the Tigers in sacks (6.0) and tackles for loss (12.0) with five pass breakups, an interception, a forced fumble and one recovery. To date Simmons is one of only five FBS players credited with at least 65 tackles, 11.5 tackles-for-loss and 6.0 sacks this season. He has had five games of eight tackles or more. No one has been on the field at Clemson more than Simmons; his 536 snaps played is 69 more (13 percent) than fellow linebacker James Skalski. Simmons is Clemson’s fourth finalist of the last five seasons and its sixth overall. Defensive end Da’Quan Bowers won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy in 2010.
**Sophomore QB Trevor Lawrence (6-6/215)
Lawrence has exceptional arm strength, surprising mobility, and could be the number one overall draft pick in next year. The Georgia native has thrown for at least three touchdowns in six consecutive games, becoming the first player in school history to accomplish that feat.
“He’s been playing well… If I had to guess and just give my analysis of it, he’s found out how to block out the noise like he did last year. He’s not worried about what people are saying. He’s not letting anybody get inside his head,” co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “He’s just going to work every single day and not trying to do too much, understanding that he’s got a ton of weapons around him. He’s got a lot of support, that he doesn’t have to do everything by himself. I think that’s just allowed him to go out and play with the cool and calmness that we’re used to.”
Coach: Will Muschamp
South Carolina Players to watch:
Senior DT Javon Kinlaw (6-6/302)
“Play by play; that’s all I try to do. I just try to do my job and that’s about it. (The Georgia game) was a confidence boost. We knew we could play.”
Kinlaw, a 6-6, 310-pound senior, has filled up the stat line with 31 tackles including 6.0 sacks, tied for fourth in the SEC, three quarterback hurries, a pair of fumble recoveries and a blocked kick. Kinlaw, who some NFL experts have labeled a first-round NFL draft pick, was the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for his performance at Georgia, and was a midseason All-American by both the AP (first team) and The Athletic (second team).
“We had a big offseason with our strength coach,” Kinlaw said. “(Assistant Director of Strength and Conditioning) Coach (Mark) Campbell, he really tested us mentally. More mentally than physically. He would do things to try to get us uncomfortable. He really broke us down and rebuilt us and reshaped us, especially me.”
Senior RB Tavien Feaster (5-11/221)
Former Clemson running back Tavien Feaster will get a shot against his former team, assuming he is back from a groin injury that has sidelined him since early November. Feaster transferred to South Carolina during the summer in search of more playing time and has rushed for 625 yards while averaging 5.6 yards per carry. Clemson players and coaches said at the time of Feaster’s decision and again leading up to this game that they understood why Feaster left and they have nothing but respect for him.
The South Carolina running back has been invited to the East-West Shrine bowl in St. Petersburg, Florida and has accepted the invitation. That game is set for January 18, 2020.
Senior MLB T.J. Brunson (6-1/235)
In 2018, Brunson was named as one of four permanent team captains. With his athleticism to play the run, cover receivers and running backs and also get after the quarterback, it is no surprise his teammates look up to him.
Brunson was recognized by his peers with four postseason defensive awards: he shared the Joe Morrison Award as the MVP with Javon Kinlaw; he was one of three Unselfish Teammate Award winners; he garnered the Leadership Award; and he shared the Most Productive Player Award with Jaycee Horn. Brunson also received the Nutrition Award from the coaches. On the field, he led the team with a career-high 106 tackles and tied for seventh in the SEC averaging 8.2 tackles per game.
“Being healthy makes a huge difference,” he said earlier this year. “And just understanding angles and everything. Just the preparation that we’ve put in for it, I think that will all come into play and it will all mold into one. I think that will be the biggest improvement from last year.”
*Junior DE Aaron Sterling (6-1/246)
Many would call Sterling undersized, yet he’s racked up six sacks and 10 tackles-for-loss on the season. “He’s slippery. That’s what he does. He’ll be finessing them guys out there,” South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw said of Sterling. “He’s doing his thing. People always try to knock him because of his size, but his heart, he got a heart of a giant.”
“I’m just trying to help my team win, and I know getting to the quarterback can win you games,” Sterling said. “If the quarterback can’t really throw the ball and he can be affected the whole game, it’s hard for him to throw accurately.”
Senior WR Bryan Edwards (6-3/215)
Muschamp said he expects most of his injured players back for the Clemson game. That might not include star receiver Bryan Edwards, who is doubtful after a knee scope, Muschamp said. Edwards missed the Texas A&M game with swelling around a sprained meniscus.
Edwards leads the SEC with 7.1 receptions per game; and is fifth with 81.6 receiving yards per contest.
Williams-Brice Stadium – Grass
Nov. 30 | Columbia, South Carolina
*Note: Rankings are based on the CFP (College Football Playoff Rankings).