No. 23 Clemson seeks seventh straight win over South Carolina

After a one-year break due to COVID that interrupted one of the oldest rivalries in college football after 111 consecutive years, Clemson and South Carolina are eager to renew acquaintances on Saturday night in Columbia, S.C.”We’re excited about the state championship being back in play,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “I think everyone missed it last year. It’s a long-standing tradition in college football. It will be a great game and a great environment.”The Tigers (8-3) will look to continue their dominance in the rivalry. Clemson is seeking its seventh consecutive victory in the series, which it leads 71-42-4, and would tie for the longest winning streak (also by Clemson) in the series.A Clemson victory also would make Swinney the first coach on either side to win seven straight games in the series, but Swinney has been impressed by what first-year head coach Shane Beamer has been able to accomplish in his initial campaign at South Carolina (6-5).”They are playing physical, with a ton of effort and it’s a reflection of what Shane Beamer has done in a short amount of time,” Swinney said. “They are 5-1 at home. They have battled every week. They have found a little bit of an identity.”That identity is a run-first offense. In last week’s win against Auburn, South Carolina got 99 yards rushing and a receiving touchdown from running back ZaQuandre White, who is averaging 6.9 yards per carry and has emerged as the primary threat in a backfield that also includes Kevin Harris, who’s rushed for 465 yards.The Gamecocks defeated Florida and Auburn in two of their last three games, with the only loss a three-point defeat at Missouri. The win against Auburn clinched the program’s first six-win season and bowl opportunity since 2018.Clemson, meanwhile, still has a slim but mathematical chance at a seventh straight Atlantic Coast Conference Championship. The Tigers, who cracked the College Football Playoff rankings for the first time this season at No. 23 on Tuesday, need a North Carolina victory against N.C. State on Friday night coupled with a Boston College upset of Wake Forest on Saturday to win the league’s Atlantic Division and a title-game berth.”We’ve done all we can — we can’t waste any energy focusing on that,” Swinney said. “We just need to focus on winning the state championship.”