FOOTBALL

Get to know South Carolina, Notre Dame's TaxSlayer Gator Bowl opponent

Justin Frommer
South Bend Tribune
South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer smiles after defeating Clemson 31-30 in an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

No. 21 Notre Dame is headed south for holiday football, where it will meet No. 19 South Carolina in this year's TaxSlayer Gator Bowl on Dec. 30 in Jacksonville, Fla.

The matchup, Notre Dame's first against the Gamecocks in 37 years, features two teams who got hot late in the season.

The Irish (8-4), won nine of its last 12 games after opening the year 0-2 with losses to No. 2 Ohio State and Marshall. South Carolina (8-4) was 1-2 after back-to-back losses to Arkansas and Georgia, but won four of its last six — including back-to-back wins over No. 5 Tennessee and No. 7 Clemson — to enter the College Football Playoff rankings.

More:Tyler Buchner a 'full go' for Notre Dame, headed for TaxSlayer Gator Bowl opposite South Carolina

Here is what else to know about No. 19 South Carolina ahead of the Gator Bowl:

The basics

  • Record: 8-4 (wins against Kentucky, No. 6 Tennessee and No. 7 Clemson)
  • Conference: Southeastern
  • Coach: Shane Beamer (second season)
  • Series History: 3-1, Notre Dame leads
  • Last Meeting: 36-32, South Carolina (South Bend, 1984)

What jumps out

Get ready for some blocked punts. Don't be surprised if there's a blocked punt or two given these two special teams units. Notre Dame and South Carolina both rank in the top three in blocked punts this year. The Irish lead college football with seven, while South Carolina is tied with Rutgers with five for the second-most.

Notre Dame defensive lineman Jordan Botelho (12) blocks Clemson punter Aidan Swanson (39) during the Notre Dame vs. Clemson NCAA football game Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.

Quarterback Spencer Rattler's efficiency. South Carolina's late-season resurgence comes on the heels of its quarterback's play. Rattler ranks 20th in completion percentage this season (66.6%) and has completed more than 60% of his passes in his last five games. The transfer from Oklahoma has plenty big-game experience, leading the Sooners to a Big 12 championship and Cotton Bowl victory in 2020 as a redshirt freshman. He was a Davey O'Brien semifinalist for the nation's top QB that year as well as CBS Sports' National Freshman of the Year.

South Carolina's ball-hawking secondary. Notre Dame may be re-integrating quarterback Tyler Buchner back into its offense for the first time since September and will be doing it against a secondary who can find the football. South Carolina's 12 interceptions this season is tied for 29th in college football.

More:What once should have been stunning news now is the college football standard

Players to know

QUARTER BACK SPENCER RATTLER

Nov 26, 2022; Clemson, SC, USA;  South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) celebrates after the game with Clemson at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022.  Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

It is unclear if Rattler will play in the Gator Bowl or sit out in preparations for the NFL Draft. If he does start, the Irish will face quarterback playing some of his best football. Rattler has thrown for 2,780 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this season.

WIDE RECEIVER ANTWANE WELLS JR.

South Carolina wide receiver Antwane Wells Jr (3) moves the ball during a game that resulted in a 31-30 win for the Gamecocks at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022.

Wells has been South Carolina's downfield threat all season. He has caught 63 passes for 898 yards and six touchdowns, including two in the Gamecock's rivalry upset over Clemson to close the regular season.

DEFENSIVE BACK MARCELLAS DIAL

South Carolina corner back Marcellas Dial (24) intercepts a ball intended for Clemson tight end Davis Allen (84) during the fourth quarter at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022.

Dial leads South Carolina's defense with three interceptions, one of which came against Clemson. He also has one against South Carolina State and Georgia State. A junior, Dial also has 30 tackles and 11 pass deflections this season.