Swinney Expecting the Best South Carolina Team

Zach Lentz

CLEMSON — The No. 3 Clemson Tigers will look to continue their dominant winning streak Saturday (noon, ESPN), as they make the short trip down I-26 to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks.

Clemson, holder of the nation's longest active overall winning streak (26), home winning streak (22) and road winning streak (11), will attempt to extend its recent run of victories against its rival. 

The Tigers have won five straight against South Carolina since 2014 and will attempt to earn a sixth consecutive win against the Gamecocks for the first time since a seven-game streak from 1934-40. Clemson has scored at least 34 points in every game of its five-game series winning streak, winning by an average margin of 23.4 points in that span.

Even though the Tigers and the Gamecocks are on completely different paths this season, with the Tigers looking for a fifth straight appearance in the College Football Playoff and the Gamecocks facing a losing season — currently sitting at 4-7 in 2019, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is not buying the lie that this game will be an easy one.

"This is a great week in college football. There are games like this all over the country. For us, it's about finishing strong and playing our best four quarters of the week," Swinney said. "I don't think they (the Tiger players) want to lose at all. It's not just not wanting to lose to South Carolina. The guys who sit up here in these front rows (during team meetings) want to keep winning. 

"How many teams have been 30-0? But here we are trying to get to that. It's not out of the question for us. You can't win 30 until you win 27. You can't win 13 until you win 12. We just want to be great right in this moment. That's why this team has been so consistent. The hardest thing to do in sports is to win consistently, to be great over and over and over again.

"I know their record isn't great, but you have to throw that out. Nothing else matters. This is a team that beat Georgia at Georgia."

While coaches love to use that phrase, "You can throw the records out" — it does not hold much water when it comes to the facts.

While there have been some upsets in the Clemson-South Carolina series, usually the team with the better record comes away with the victory. The team entering the game with the better overall record has a 24-9-1 record in the series since 1981. That computes to 72 percent over a 38-year period. Four times during that era, both teams had the same record. 

The team with the better overall record entering the game is 7-7 in the last 14 years. In the history of the series, Clemson has a 45-18-3 record when it enters the contest with the better record. Clemson has had the better record in 66 of the 116 previous meetings. The teams have had the same winning percentage entering the game nine times and Clemson has a 6-3 record in those situations. 

If the Tigers are going to have the success that many around the country are expecting Saturday, they will have to deal with one of the better defenses they have faced — or at least players in Javon Kinlaw.

Defensively, that is definitely their strength," Swinney said. "They have a very good defensive line. No. 3 is as good a player as you'll see in the country. He is big and strong and long. He does a great job with his hands and has a good motor. He has affected every game he has been in. 

"I saw him in high school. He's a massive human being. He's long, powerful and can move. He has developed great strength. There are no weaknesses to him. He's a lot like Dexter Lawrence. He's not quite as big but has a lot of power and explosiveness. He's playing really hard. He's a problem for everybody."