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5 Clemson Storylines Heading into Rivalry Week at South Carolina

After seeing their 111-game streak of consecutive meetings end last year, Clemson and South Carolina renew the football rivalry once again at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday night.

The Palmetto Bowl returns to hearts and minds this week. 

After ending a streak of 111 consecutive meetings when the rivalry game between Clemson and South Carolina was halted because of COVID-19 adjusted scheduling, the two sides return to the football field Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia.

The Tigers (8-3) are fresh off of a 48-27 victory over No. 10 Wake Forest while the Gamecocks (6-5) reached bowl eligibility for the first time since 2018 following a 21-17 win over Auburn. 

Here's a look at some of the key storylines heading into the state championship game:

1. Will the streak continue?: Following a run of five consecutive losses to South Carolina, the Tigers are currently on a streak of six consecutive wins in the series. And with the way Clemson has dominated, winning five of those by double digits, some have wondered if the Tigers run out of fingers before the Gamecocks win again. 

At times this season, it looks as if this could be the year that it ends as the Tigers have been vulnerable, losing three games and producing one of the worst offenses statistically of the Dabo Swinney era. The Gamecocks have a solid defense, but they've also struggled to move the ball, which is why oddsmakers made Clemson a double-digit favorite once again. South Carolina has already beaten Florida and Auburn, both formally ranked teams, at home this year, but Clemson is in better form than those two when they arrived in Columbia. 

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2. Coaching showdown: Swinney didn't get an opportunity to stick it to former Gamecock coach Will Muschamp a year ago, but he likely wouldn't have even if that game was played since Muschamp was shown the door before the season ended. Now, Swinney takes on first-year head coach Shane Beamer, who's quite familiar with this rivalry. He worked on Steve Spurrier's staff in Columbia more than a decade ago. 

While this will be their first showdown, both coaches have been complimentary of each other, and when Beamer was hired, he mentioned emulating Swinney in his opening press conference. This rivalry is largely defined by coach vs. coach, so a new chapter begins in the Palmetto Bowl. 

3. Quarterback issues: South Carolina enters this game on its third quarterback of the season, but it's won at least one game with all three. Clemson has struggled to get consistent, big-time plays from its signal-caller for much of this season. Plus, he's dealing with a sprained knee and a busted pinky finger on his throwing hand. 

Still, quarterback play also defines this rivalry so there will be plenty of attention on Jason Brown, an FCS transfer from St. Francis, versus DJ Uiagalelei, a five-star talent. It might not quite be Connor Shaw vs. Tajh Boyd, but the history of this rivalry is filled with great moments from quarterbacks. We'll see which one overcomes adversity the best. 

4. Heads up!: This will be a storyline because every Clemson player is going to get asked about going on the road to Williams-Brice. The fans are loud and into the game. Sometimes, they've been too into the game. There have been incidents where things have been thrown onto the field, both against Clemson and other opponents. It's something the players have to prepare for mentally and not let it affect their play. 

With it being a night game and offering plenty of time for the fan bases to get lubed up for this one, expect a wild and crazy atmosphere in Columbia, especially since the Gamecocks might see this unranked Clemson team as the one it could finally knock off. 

5. Health, injuries, blah, blah, blah: This actually falls much lower on the list than most weeks. It feels like the predominant storyline for Clemson in 2021, but there appears to be some stability heading into the regular-season finale. The Tigers were without 17 scholarship players by the end of last Saturday's game, but they at least had Will Putnam, Will Shipley and Kobe Pace back in the rotation. 

This week, the attention turns to the receiver position, where the Tigers had to start freshmen Beaux Collins, Dacari Collins and senior Will Swinney against Wake Forest. It's unknown if Joseph Ngata or E.J. Williams will return this week. There's also the chance that somebody, like Troy Stellato last week, gets hurt in warmups. It's been a weird year so expecting nothing else before Saturday's game.