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Scott Hood

GamecockCentral.com

The handmade sign being waved proudly amongst the large crowd gathered behind the ESPN "College GameDay" stage on the Horseshoe said it all.

"Weather forecast - Clowney with a 100 percent chance of pain."

Several hours later, the catchy sign proved prophetic.

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was the lead guitarist for a spectacular USC rock act that shook, rattled and rolled the vaunted Georgia offense for three hours on Saturday in front of perhaps the loudest, most enthusiastic crowd from beginning to end in Williams-Brice Stadium history.

Georgia finished with just 224 yards of offense, but 75 of those yards (33.5 percent of the total) came on a meaningless final drive in the fourth-quarter when USC's defense consisted mostly of second- and third-teamers.

Through three quarters, when the outcome of the game was still in doubt, Georgia mustered a meager 149 yards of total offense, 40 yards on the ground as the heavily hyped freshman duo of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall (76 total yards; 51 in the first three quarters) fizzled trying to run against Clowney and the stout USC defense.

"I knew our defense was going to come out ready to play against Georgia," Clowney said on Saturday. "We've been practicing hard and going hard. We said that if we got some pressure, they wouldn't get many points on us."

CBS analyst Tony Barnhart said that Saturday's stellar performance by the USC defensive front has "changed the narrative" in the SEC.

"Talk about the narrative changing in the SEC. The narrative was LSU and Alabama have the grownest of the grown men playing defensive line in the SEC," Barnhart said. "Now you have to put South Carolina there. Kelcy Quarles, Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney is as good as any front line in college football.

"The poor left tackle at Georgia, Lord help him. He had no shot. Clowney kept doing the swim move and speed move and one time he just jumped over him and got to the quarterback. That's how talented this kid is."

How impressive was Clowney's performance? He drew raves afterwards from national pundits covering the game. On Monday, Dan Wenzel of Yahoo!Sports tossed out the suggestion that Clowney deserved serious consideration for the Heisman Trophy.

While the chances of a defensive player winning the Heisman are slim because inattentive voters are tuned only to individual offensive numbers (Wetzel summed it up perfectly: "Is there anyone out there that doesn't believe Clowney is one of the best players in America? Other than whoever is writing those 'Heisman Watch' lists that he rarely, if ever, appears on?"), Clowney could put himself squarely into the Heisman race if he disrupts the LSU and Florida offenses to the same extent he bothered Georgia on Saturday.

LSU lost starting left tackle Chris Faulk for the season in early September, and the most important position along the offensive front has played musical chairs since then.

Will whoever lines up for LSU at left tackle, or right tackle for that matter, prove capable of blocking Clowney? Surely, it will prove to be a difficult, if not impossible, task.

"Losing Chris Faulk at left tackle was a huge loss," Barnhart said.

With 6.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss in six games, Clowney is tracking single-season school records in both categories with the regular season at the halfway point.

Clowney is already 65 percent there in terms of the season sack record (10, Andrew Provence in 1982 and Melvin Ingram in 2011) and 59 percent towards the season tackles-for-loss record (19.5, Eric Norwood in 2007).

If Clowney continues to dominate offensive tackles, he won't just break those records, he will shatter them.

"He's growing in knowledge and he's still learning what we're doing," defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said on Saturday. "He's learning his fits and base defense. He's always been blessed with the ability to rush the passer. He's buying into what coach (Brad) Lawing is teaching. Coach Lawing is on him all the time. I call Coach Lawing the 'bad cop' because he gets on him and then I'm over there trying to pick him up. He's a great football coach and Jadeveon is a great talent."

In addition, USC has a SEC-leading 25 sacks (4.2 sacks per game) after dropping Murray twice on Saturday. But the Gamecocks affected him countless other times.

The school record for most sacks in a season is 41 (2010). USC's rate of production in that category must diminish considerably in the second half of the schedule in order for the Gamecocks to fall short of setting a new record.

With at least seven games remaining, USC's weekly sack count must tumble to 2.3 per game simply to match the school record.

Clowney is a major reason, of course, the Gamecocks are ranked second in the SEC in scoring defense (10.5 points per game), third in total defense (278 yards per game), second in rushing defense (83.8 ypg) and fifth in pass defense (194.2 ypg), putting them in the upper one-third of most major statistical categories in the SEC, a league renowned for powerful defenses.

Ward said Saturday's effort was the product of all 11 players on defense playing as a unit.

"We've got good players and I've got good coaches," Ward said. "Not only the front four, but our linebackers have played really well. And the perimeter was in position to make some plays. It all works hand-in-hand. It's a blessing to be able to rush four guys and drop seven when it's time to throw the football."

For in-depth coverage of Gamecock sports and recruiting,visit GamecockCentral.com.

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