Is this the year South Carolina can finally beat Clemson?

What’s better than crushing the country’s No. 5 team?

How’s that for an encore? beat Clemson.

Stopping a streak and beating a rival starts with conviction, and it’s Shane Beamer’s first job this week at Clemson.

The Gamecocks should certainly be full of conviction after dominating Tennessee.

The 7-game losing streak against Clemson is understood with the Gamecocks tied to Clemson’s longest winning streak in the series, which the Tigers put on from 1934-1940. After losing to Florida that season, Shane Beamer continued to say he believes in this team, believes they have the talent to play with anyone.

Clemson is hosting South Carolina in Death Valley for the first time since 2018.

In addition, Dabo Swinney is also the only coach in Clemson history to win 7 straight games against South Carolina. That streak began after his Tigers lost five straight games to Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks from 2009-13.

Clemson did more than just beat the Gamecocks, it was a lot of one-sided affairs. The Tigers have won 5 straight games against the Gamecocks by 21+ points. Not only that, South Carolina hasn’t scored a touchdown against Clemson since 2018. Last year it was 30-0 in Columbia.

So how do you map an excitement?

It starts with Spencer Rattler. Asking him to throw for 6 more TDs is unrealistic, but he needs to be efficient, like in the Kentucky game when he was 14-on-19 passing 177 yards with a touchdown and an interception. I’m hoping MarShawn Lloyd returns from injury and can do similar to his Kentucky performance of 22 carries for 110 yards and a touchdown.

Prior to sitting out the Tennessee game while Lloyd only had 2 games with 100 rushing yards, the key stat is the number of carries. If Lloyd gets double digit carries, the Gamecocks win. Lloyd has 3 games where he had 9 or fewer carries and they are all losses for South Carolina. The Gamecocks are also 5-0 when he has 11 or more carries, and he has surpassed 100 yards both times when he has 15 or more carries.

The Gamecocks also need a controlled outing from Rattler with high-percentage throws. The Gamecocks are 4-0 if he completes at least 70% of his passes and even 6-3 if he completes 60% of his passes. But sales are key. In 3 losses before the Tennessee game, Rattler had one touchdown and 4 combined interceptions, compared to 7 touchdowns in the Gamecocks’ wins alongside 5 interceptions.

Against Tennessee, he was 30 of 37 for 438 yards and the program’s top 6 TDs. Importantly, he didn’t throw an interception.

Given the emotion in this rivalry, another reason for excitement would be that South Carolina is starting as quickly as it has seen victories over Tennessee, Kentucky and Texas A&M. And game time could help with that, as the road team regularly benefits from the lack of crowd noise at a lunchtime kickoff. And it’s an unusual development for the rivalry.

This marks the first noon kickoff in the series since 2019 in Columbia and the first noon kickoff in Clemson since 2014. Four of the teams’ previous 5 matchups and 8 of the teams’ previous 12 matchups started at 7 p.m. or later.

Of all the fights for South Carolina this season, special teams have not been one of them.

Against Georgia State, the Gamecocks blocked 2 punts, and both led to scoop-and-score touchdowns in the season-opening win.

Xavier Legette hit a 100-yard kickoff return against Texas A&M. Other highlights included punter Kai Kroeger, who threw a successful pass into fourth to keep a drive alive against No. 1 Georgia. They also added 2 more blocked punts in a win over South Carolina State and another over Kentucky in 13th place. Josh Vann even joked with his teammates that they should stop blocking punts so he has a chance to run one back.

Finally, the other key for the Gamecocks has been a major talking point for fans all season.

Jaheim Bell needs at least 15 touches to start with, about 10 carries and 5 catches. He had 17 carries for 82 yards and caught 2 TD passes against the Vols. While Bell isn’t considered a true running back, it’s obvious the coaching staff is trying to get him more involved.

On Saturday he had a season high of 5 catches.

Get Bell involved and see what happens. Assuming Lloyd returns, hook him up and see what happens.

First of all, if they can combine at least 30 touches, the fans will be satisfied and have less to complain about. And after a 30-0 loss on this streak, let alone the streak, what do the Gamecocks have to lose?

A special team crease is almost assumed, and given their performance, the Gamecocks might not even need a special surprise.

With Rattler turning to stardom against Tennessee on Saturday, the ingredients for another upset are absolutely on the table.