Underclassman to watch in Clemson’s match-up with South Carolina

Clemson comes into the Palmetto Bowl with a 96 percent chance to win according to ESPN’s Football Power Index. There are a few underclassman on either team that are going to play a huge role in the outcome of this game.

Jake Bentley (Fr) QB:

Bentley has only started in 5 games thus far, however, the freshman signal caller has been impressive in those limited snaps. Bentley has completed 66.2 percent of his passes for 6 touchdowns and just 1 interception.

Since naming Jake Bentley the starter, the Gamecocks are 4-1 with a win over 24th ranked Tennessee.

In order for South Carolina to have success against Clemson, Bentley must create chunk plays. Clemson’s defense was burned against Pittsburgh time after time. The Gamecocks must take at least eight shots down the field, this will prevent the Tigers defense from pinning their ears back against the run.

South Carolina does a good job of using run-pass options (RPO’s) to combat aggressive defenses. Bentley must do a good job of recognizing when the Tigers are bringing pressure and getting the ball out accordingly.

Dec 5, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Deon Cain (8) with the ball as North Carolina Tar Heels cornerback Mike Hughes (1) defends during the third quarter in the ACC football championship game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Deon Cain (So) WR:

Cain had some growing up to do over the off-season, and boy did he do it! The sophomore wide-out currently has 28 receptions for 514 yards and 9 touchdowns.

Deon is the most lethal deep threat on the team averaging 18.36 yards per catch. His blend of size and speed make him difficult for most corners to cover. South Carolina’s defense only features one defensive back over 5’11 in Jamarcus King. Cain, at 6’1, 220 pounds should be able to have his way with the Gamecocks smaller corners.

It is vital that Jeff Scott and Tony Elliot find ways to get Cain the ball in space. South Carolina’s defense is going to place a lot of attention on Mike Williams, which will give Cain favorable one-on-one match-ups.

Nov 5, 2016; Columbia, SC, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks running back Rico Dowdle (23) tosses the ball to the ref after his score against the Missouri Tigers during the second quarter at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Rico Dowdle (Fr) HB:

South Carolina has not ran the ball well this season. The Gamecocks currently rank 106th in rushing offense with 140.45 yards per game. Freshman tailback, Rico Dowdle rushes for 97.71 of those yards each game.

In order for South Carolina to have any form of balance offensively, Rico Dowdle must get going early. Clemson has one of the best defensive lines in the country allowing just 129.27 rushing yards per game. South Carolina co-offensive coordinators Kurt Roper and Bryan McClendon must finds way to open up holes for Rico Dowdle.

South Carolina is inexperienced at most of the skill positions on offense. The outcome of this game is dependent upon the performance of the Gamecocks young playmakers Jake Bentley and Rico Dowdle. Both are equally important to each-others success. If Dowdle runs the football effectively, that will open up the play-action down the field for Bentley. If Bentley can connect down the field, Clemson will not be able to load up the box to stop the run.

In the end, I think Clemson’s experience and talent on defense will be too much for South Carolina’s youngsters to overcome.

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