COLUMBIA — Any skepticism was quickly erased by the situation.
South Carolina always looks at film from the last three or four games when game-planning for an opponent. Three games ago, Alabama lost to Clemson in the national championship game.
The Gamecocks would like to give the Crimson Tide a second loss in four games against a team from South Carolina. And if they could channel the Tigers’ 44-16 drilling of Alabama into their game Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium, well …
That would be fine.
“They’re going to do what they do in the run game. I think some things in the pass game have obviously changed,” USC coach Will Muschamp said. “You’ve just got to make the adjustments as far as what you see. It takes a total team effort.
“I think obviously being able to score points is a huge part of that. It changes the game and complexion of the game for Alabama offensively.”
Muschamp could have defied the conventional and declared he would never look at anything Clemson does while coaching his USC team, but that would have been an absurd soapbox on which to perch. The fact is, the Gamecocks (1-1) need all the help they can get when they play No. 2 Alabama (2-0), which is a three-touchdown favorite and then some.
Clemson didn’t tremble going into the CFP championship last year, despite playing what many called one of the best teams of all time. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables orchestrated a tapestry of brilliant maneuvers that took Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa out of his game.
Clemson’s A.J. Terrell intercepted Tagovailoa on the Tide’s first drive and took it into the end zone for a shockingly quick first touchdown. From then on, Tagovailoa was flustered and unsure, not stepping into his throws and tentatively trying to break Clemson’s defense.
Venables credited a “cloud” coverage, something the Tigers hadn’t used much in their regular season, and sure tackling. Tagovailoa threw a second first-half interception, the Tigers’ offense trampled the Tide’s defense and the rout was on.
USC doesn’t have the personnel Clemson did and can’t mimic the production, but can find some schemes, a play or two that may work Saturday. It also has the experience of a guy who played in that game last year.
“It will just be some memories that flash back in my mind of that week, probably, going into it,” tailback Tavien Feaster said. “But we just got to prepare. Watch a great team that executed on all cylinders and won the game against them.”
Feaster rushed three times and caught two passes against Alabama in that win, then transferred to USC over the summer. He was justifiably proud of how the Tigers played, but kept the key to beating the Crimson Tide in basic terms.
“Incredible wins, great teams, but what’s understood ain’t got to be explained. We went out there and executed and got our job done,” he said. “I believe they got a couple guys back in the secondary that was hurt last year, which is going to make them pretty much better on the back end than when I played them.”
Muschamp will try to get Tagovailoa off his rhythm any way he can, which is imperative to protect his young secondary. If Tagovailoa has all day to throw, he’s going to find one of his star receivers, such as reigning Biletnikoff Award winner Jerry Jeudy.
Alabama has the better team. But USC may have the better game plan.
Right guard Eric Douglas moved around well at practice Wednesday, Muschamp said. He should be fine for Saturday.
Jovaughn Gwyn is expected to start at right guard, but Douglas, one of the Gamecocks’ most versatile linemen, will be like a sixth man. He can back up at three spots.
Follow David Cloninger on Twitter @DCPandC.