Jadeveon Clowney, Talh Boyd

BCS on the line for Clemson but South Carolina hoping for SEC title shot


Clemson has lost four straight games to South Carolina. It is the longest streak without a win against their in-state rivals since going 0-5-1 between 1949 and 1954. It has not been pretty at times during this more recent skid for the Tigers. Clemson has been held to fewer than 20 points in each of the four losses to the Gamecocks and each has loss has come by double digits. This weekend No. 6 Clemson (10-1, 7-1 ACC) hopes to bring an end to this streak of futility against their rivals from the SEC, scoring a major win for the ACC in the process while also boosting the BCS profile. No. 10 South Carolina (9-2, 6-2 SEC) is also sniffing around for a BCS spot but could have other things in mind Saturday night when they take the field.

If Clemson is going to pick up a win to improve to 12-1 on the season, they will need Tajh Boyd to have a good game. The senior has thrown for 3,248 yards, 29 touchdowns and has been intercepted seven times. He remains one of the top players in the sport at his position but most casual fans will remember are the losses. The stain from an Orange Bowl blowout at the hands of West Virginia two years ago were beginning to fade this season but then Florida State rolled in to Death Valley and decimated Boyd and the Tigers. Boyd completed 17 of 37 passes for a season-low 156 yards and one touchdown while being intercepted twice. Boyd will once again be thrown under  a microscope against South Carolina, a team he has struggled against each of the past three seasons.

In three career games against the Gamecocks, Boyd has completed 32 of 71 attempts (45.0 completion percentage, just one game with more than half of his attempts completed n 2010) for 339 yards (113 passing yards per game), two touchdowns and three interceptions. Is Boyd afraid of South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney? Well, no, but the Gamecocks have held all the tools needed to disrupt a player like Boyd and limit the production of the supporting cast from Clemson. That includes Sammy Watkins, who has been a virtual non-factor in each of the last two meetings (combining for 76 receiving yards). Clemson has the offensive firepower to overcome some of the trends of the past few meetings, but South Carolina could easily have the same sort of defensive success Florida State enjoyed against the Tigers earlier this season.

But do the Gamecocks have the offensive weaponry to blow this one wide open? The answer is both yes and no. South Carolina can take control of this game with their offense. Connor Shaw has been a rock all year long for the Gamecocks. In 11 games this year Shaw has completed 20 touchdown passes to just one interception. He is not likely to make mistakes and that will be key against Clemson. Having Mike Davis, the SEC’s leading rusher, back in the fold will always help as well. Davis had been banged up recently but is getting back on track. Davis will enter the weekend with 1,112 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.

One of the biggest problems for Clemson when facing South Carolina has been holding on to the football. The Tigers have had six turnovers in the past three games, while the Gamecocks have lost just one turnover in that span. This season Clemson has a turnover margin of +10, which is on track to be the best margin since having a +13 in 2007.

While South Carolina is battling Clemson for in-state bragging rights for the next year, the focus of fans may be  split between what is happening right in front of them and another game taking place roughly 870 miles away in another Columbia. In Columbia, Missouri, about 45 minutes after the Gamecocks and Tigers kick off, the Missouri Tigers will be taking on Texas A&M. If Missouri should win that game the Tigers will move on to face either Alabama or Auburn in the SEC Championship Game next week. However, if Texas A&M can go on the road and defeat Missouri, then it will be South Carolina making reservations for the SEC Championship game as the top team in the SEC East. To put it simply, it could be a wild night in Columbia, South Carolina.

If Missouri does win, a South Carolina win will keep the Gamecocks in the running for a BCS at-large invite. The same can be said for Clemson as well. The Tigers have already been locked out of the ACC Championship Game with Florida State making a run for the BCS championship game by way of a stop in Charlotte but a win by Clemson would make them a very attractive back-up option out of the ACC for a BCS bowl.

If you have not figured it out yet, there is a lot on the line in this year’s rivalry game between Clemson and South Carolina.

Georgia reportedly hires Kirby Smart as head coach

Kirby Smart

Sometimes the rumors really are true.

Seemingly since he arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2007, the worst-kept secret in college football was that Kirby Smart wouldn’t jump from Nick Saban‘s perch until the Georgia job opened.

And now, one day after Mark Richt said goodbye in Athens, multiple reports say that’s exactly what will happen – Smart will be the next Bulldogs coach.

Outside of Houston’s Tom Herman, Smart was the only target UGA athletics director Greg McGarity truly targeted and, barring a major turn of events between now and the SEC championship, he’ll have landed him.

Hailing from Bainbridge, Ga., Smart played safety for Georgia from 1995-98, then returned in 2005 as running backs coach. In between he made stops at Valdosta State, Florida State, LSU, the Miami Dolphins and, finally, Alabama, where he helped the Crimson Tide to three national titles and never produced a defense ranked lower than 18th nationally in yards per play defense.

This year’s Crimson Tide defense ranks second nationally heading into an SEC title game date with Florida. If, as expected, Alabama wins and, as expected, Smart is introduced as Georgia’s next coach, he would have to decide whether or not to pull a move much like Herman last year and work double-duty through Alabama’s run in the College Football Playoff. Or he could rip a page from his predecessor’s book and dump Alabama to drive straight into the Georgia job.

What sort of program will Smart run? Other than the Process-based enterprise seemingly microchip implanted into the brain of every Saban aide, it’s hard to say. Smart only spoke to the media three times annually.

But here’s one guarantee: he’ll need to nail his offensive coordinator hire. Saban’s former offensive coordinators — Jimbo Fisher and Jim McElwain — have thrived, while his most prominent defensive coordinator-turned-head coach protege — Will Muschamp — failed mightily at Florida because he could never conquer the other side of the ball.

Smart will be expected to win, win big, and win quickly. You don’t fire a coach with 145 wins in 15 years and 19 victories in the last two for any other reason.

Why Steve Spurrier retired, as told by Steve Spurrier

Steve Spurrier

When Steve Spurrier abruptly retired in October, most stopped to reminisce about a true college football original’s career come to a sudden, but not unexpected end. But others pointed out that Spurrier essentially quit on his team in the middle of a tough season. It was an easy take and, hey, it’s not like the Old Ball Coach himself wouldn’t have said something if Mark Richt had done something similar.

In a letter provided to The State, Spurrier reasoned his retirement truly was better for the team, that the team played better without him around and that his presence would’ve generated speculation that would have suffocated the rest of the season.

Considering the Gamecocks lost to The Citadel, one has every reason to doubt that claim. But it’s the one Spurrier is going with.

The letter in full:

In the last few years when asked how much longer I plan to coach, I have said often that if our team is going in the wrong direction I need to resign and allow someone else to take over as head coach here. After six games, we were 2-4 with two blow-outs by Georgia and LSU. We were behind at halftime against UCF (a team that went 0-12 this year). We were definitely going in the wrong direction. I felt that I was doing a lousy job as head coach and a change would help our team become more competitive.

I told our team after I resigned that they needed new leadership, new enthusiasm and a new plan. By stepping aside, this allowed Shawn Elliott the opportunity to change our direction, change our attitude, and hopefully, he could be named head coach after the season. If this happens, some of our assistant coaches would be retained, and this was a major reason for me to get out of the way. Also, by resigning, I forfeited the buyout clause in my contract that saved our university three million dollars.

I certainly believe, as the media has said, that our team played better after I resigned. Shawn Elliott did an excellent job getting this team prepared to play with enthusiasm and effort the rest of our season. Unfortunately, the close games turned into close losses.

When I mentioned I may coach again, I meant possibly as a volunteer coach at a high school. After thirty years as a head coach, I positively know that my head coaching career is finished.

I understand the critics have asked why I didn’t announce I was retiring at the end of the season, as some other coaches have done. I felt that if I had done this, I would have been a distraction throughout the remainder of the season about my last game everywhere I went. I did not want a “Spurrier Farewell Tour.” The players deserve to be the story of each game. Also, it would have prevented Shawn Elliott, a coach that has loved the South Carolina Gamecocks his whole life, from getting the shot to be the interim head coach, with the possibility of becoming the Head Coach here.

When a coach gets fired, the change is often good and helpful to the team. Miami was 4-3 when Al Golden was fired, and the interim head coach went 4-1. Randy Edsall was 2-4 at Maryland when fired and his replacement got the team playing better. Clay Helton, the interim coach at the other USC, was recently named head coach as they went 5-2 under his watch.

Our university was not going to fire me, so I thought it was best for our team that I basically fire myself by resigning. The players have enjoyed playing for Coach Elliott and again the media has said the team has performed better after I resigned.

Thanks to all Gamecocks for allowing me to be your coach for over ten years. My wife Jerri and I will always be thankful and appreciative to the University of South Carolina for this opportunity.


Steve Spurrier

Top four remains same in penultimate College Football Playoff rankings

Bob Stoops

The penultimate College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night and the top four remained the same from last week. Michigan State sits at fifth, meaning Saturday’s Big Ten Championship is officially a national quarterfinal.

Stanford, heading into this week’s Pac-12 Championship, checked in at No. 7, while party-crasher-to-be North Carolina jumped from No. 14 to No. 10.

Ohio State checks in at No. 6, but Stanford seems primed to pass the Buckeyes with a win over No. 20 USC. Getting into the top four, however, would require a loss by No. 1 Clemson or No. 2 Alabama. No. 3 Oklahoma is seemingly in the playoff with a completed 11-1 regular season.

TCU moved one spot ahead of Baylor after a rain-soaked double overtime win over the Bears on Friday night.

Houston, USC and LSU moved back into the rankings, while Tennessee joined the party for the first time this year.

Tuesday night’s release was the final dress rehearsal of the 2015 season; the next time we hear from the CFP selection committee will be to announce the four semifinal selections.

But while these are the second-to-last set of rankings, we can ask 2014 TCU about how much they ultimately mean.

The full rankings:

1. Clemson
2. Alabama
3. Oklahoma
4. Iowa
5. Michigan State
6. Ohio State
7. Stanford
8. Notre Dame
9. Florida State
10. North Carolina
11. TCU
12. Baylor
13. Ole Miss
14. Northwestern
15. Michigan
16. Oregon
17. Oklahoma State
18. Florida
19. Houston
20. USC
21. LSU
22. Temple
23. Navy
24. Utah
25. Tennessee

Dabo Swinney wins ACC Coach of the Year award

Dabo Swinney

When you go undefeated, people tend to give you awards.

In the wake of Clemson’s first perfect regular season, its first since 1981, head coach and pizza party patron Dabo Swinney was named the ACC’s top coach on Tuesday.

Swinney received 27 of the 50 available votes, edging North Carolina’s Larry Fedora (21). Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Pittsburgh’s Pat Narduzzi each gobbled up one of the two remaining votes.

Aaron Brenner of the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier notes Swinney is due a $25,000 bonus for winning the award.