I can tell you from firsthand experience that Death Valley doesn’t fit the mold of what most SEC think when it comes to ACC stadiums.
That place gets really loud, and really energetic.
And it showed Saturday night as Clemson raced through the second half of their 38-35 victory over Georgia behind their rowdy crowd in the stands.
Sure, we here in Athens can always blame the botched snap on the field goal try or the maybe-should-have-been-reviewed third-down conversion on the Tigers’ final touchdown drive, but in reality the Bulldogs just couldn’t get out of their own way.
The offense fell asleep when it should have had its foot on Clemson’s throat and the defense couldn’t keep up the pressure on Tajh Boyd, letting the record-setting quarterback account for five touchdowns (three passing, two rushing).
But that’s all in the past now. Today the focus is on South Carolina and getting the upper hand in the SEC Eastern Divison.
Current Vegas odds have the Dawgs favored by a field goal at home, which basically means they’re calling this game a coin flip.
Certainly, Georgia fans have reason for optimism. Anybody would if they had Aaron Murray and Todd Gurley on one team.
Optimists would say that the Bulldogs can score fast, grab the momentum, get their fans rowdy, and crush Carolina’s game plan before it ever gets started.
Sounds like last year, doesn’t it?
There’s reason for concern, too.
For one, Connor Shaw is back at quarterback for the Gamecocks, and Todd Grantham’s defenses have almost universally struggled against mobile quarterbacks. Just look at Boyd’s stats (42 yards and two touchdowns).
Last year Shaw accounted for 78 yards on the ground and a touchdown, but it was his ability to evade pressure and extend plays that really gashed the Georgia defense.
And then there’s some guy named Clowney you may have heard about.
I don’t buy the “he’s not in good shape” story that was being thrown around after the Gamecocks beat North Carolina last Thursday. In fact, it came out later that he had a stomach virus.
He’ll be at full strength by Saturday.
So, what’s the forecast?
It depends on the resiliency of Mark Richt’s team. Can they break their string of losses to South Carolina, which currently stands at an all-time record losing streak of three games? Can they put Clemson behind them? Can their defense get their footing early enough to keep Carolina off balance? Can the offense get in a steady rhythm (and stay in it)?