It was Senior Day. It was the last divisional game of the season. It was a chance to be the first 11-0 Clemson team since 1981. So why did it seem like, for about two-thirds of this game, no one cared that much? Certainly, Wake Forest didn't seem to care, though their defense fought hard down to the final minutes. Certainly Clemson's defense came to play, given their shaky showing against Syracuse last week, it seemed like a given that they would make this a statement game. But oy vey, was this a grind to get through.
The score going into halftime was 30-7. The final score was 33-13. That's one scoring drive that ended in a field goal for the last 30 minutes of the game. Yes, the Tigers racked up 552 yards of offense, but no one on the team seemed the least bit engaged in the second half. Initially, upon looking at the box score, I didn't know exactly how we got 171 rushing yards, because all I remembered seeing was Zac Brooks run into a human wall every time he got the ball, but then I recalled that DeShaun Watson and backup Kelly Bryant had some pretty good runs.
We also had four turnovers to go along with our 33 points, though, and never has the importance of Wayne Gallman been more apparent. Without him, there is no running game unless we want to repeatedly send our Heisman-candidate quarterback into heavy coverage to get pummeled, and I'd rather we didn't do that. That having been said, it was nice to see some second- and third-stringers get some time to shine, and it's reassuring that even when they feel flat, the Tigers can still win big.
And now all that's left before championship games and playoffs is Carolina. Poor, poor Carolina.
I must admit that since he took over after Steve Spurrier totally screwed over ... sorry, since Steve Spurrier retired ... I'd really been impressed by interim head coach Shawn Elliott's effect on the Gamecocks. Yes, they were losing, but given the mid-season coaching drama and some key injuries, that was to be expected. What I saw was a team re-energized and playing above their talent level under a fired-up new leader.
But you can't lose to the freakin' Citadel, even on a questionable penalty. You can't let one of your gimmes (and this was a gimme, no matter what Nick Saban says) hang that close to you, and you certainly can't let them go up 14-3 on you in the first quarter.
USC gave up 350 rushing yards against The Citadel. The Gamecocks were so bad at stopping the run that the Bulldogs' QB Dominique Allen only needed to make three passing attempts. If Gallman is back and even running at 75 percent, he shouldn't have any trouble getting through this line.
That being said, rivalry games are never safe bets, ever, and anyone whose blood runs garnet-and-black has got to be salivating at the idea of not just taking Clemson out, but taking them out of the playoff hunt. If Clemson's offense doesn't snap out of that odd malaise that took over during the second half of the Wake Forest game, you never know what could happen.
But really, USC is just awful and I'm thinking Clemson wins it going away.