Ahhh…. Clemson-Carolina. While Auburn-Alabama, and Ohio State-Michigan, may garner the lion's share of national attention on rivals weekend, the Clemson and Carolina rivalry is arguably the most intense matchup in the country.
This year's game between the two schools, both highly ranked for the first time in the series, may be the biggest and most important ever. Here are the scores of the previous 109 matchups.
Patch editors Andrew Moore (Clemson fan) and Hal Millard (Carolina fan), square off against each other and discuss the game and try to predict what will happen. Let us know who you think will win, and feel free to talk a bit of smack yourselves in the comments below.
I didn't attend Clemson University, but to say that I have ties to the school, the area and Tiger sports is an understatement. Both of my brothers graduated from Clemson. I've lived in Clemson (twice). My uncle played baseball at Clemson. I grew up going to the games.
And yes, while my experience as a journalist has essentially programmed most bias out of me, there's still just a tad of that little 8-year-old kid who never missed a home Clemson game in me.
For all the hell Clemson catches from the supposedly urbane folks in Columbia, there's a charm in those hills that cannot and will not ever be duplicated - especially not in the grimy Fairgrounds of Columbia.
Carolina fans - often faux sophisticates who hail from the very parts of the state their supposedly crude, agrarian rivals do - enjoy painting Clemson and its students as somehow unrefined and uncouth because of their agricultural background. Of course, these are the same people who choose to ignore the rows of blighted and creepy properties that surround their own football stadium. I'd rather be considered a redneck and have a view of the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains than have to negotiate throngs of grown men wearing "Cocks" t-shirts as I navigate the area on Bluff Road near Williams-Brice Stadium that looks like the dank ghost town in Scooby Doo.
Make no mistake, I have friends who went to the University of South Carolina. They are good-hearted, bright people, and USC is a reputable school. My point of contention is the false sense of prestige with which Carolina fans and grads condescend and look down on Clemson University. It's totally unearned, and in football, the idea that South Carolina fans would ever want to boast is utterly baffling.
Clemson has dropped three in a row to the Gamecocks, and have been battered in those games. South Carolina has risen to new heights over the past few years (which is actually a tremendous indictment on the program's impotence, seeing as how one trip to a conference championship game somehow represents a meteoric rise), and has beaten Clemson handily lately.
When Clemson fans mention to Carolina fans the series record - an impressive 65-40-4 mark in favor of Clemson, they're accused of living in the past. What Carolina fans don't understand is the relevance of that record as an indicator of what they can expect in the future. South Carolina has enjoyed success in three years over the Tigers - a blink of an eye in this rivalry. Keep in mind, dating back the last 30 years in this rivalry, Clemson has won multiple games in a row five different times, which includes two of four-game streaks. The Gamecocks' current streak from 2009 to 2011 is the only such streak in the same period of time.
What my good "Coot" friends like Hal Millard don't seem to grasp is that they ought to consider the past - because will inevitably repeat it. Oh, and because it is almost a mathematical certainty that Mr. Millard will be taking a dirt nap and have moved onto his eternal reward without having ever seen the record evened up.
So, let's talk about Saturday.
South Carolina comes into Death Valley as a four-point underdog. Given what home field advantage usually means to bookies, that spread indicates no one knows exactly what the heck to expect.
Whether or not Connor Shaw's sprained left foot will affect his mobility will be a huge factor in whether Clemson's suspect defense can contain the Carolina quarterback, who ran for more than 100 yards in South Carolina's win a year ago.
Another foot - star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney's - will also play a huge factor in the game. Clowney's foot, which will likely require surgery after the season, kept him out of South Carolina's closer-than-expected win over Wofford. If Clowney is at full speed or even close to it, Clemson will have to be even more aware of where he is, and take measures to account for his unmatched pass-rushing ability.
The matchup of the game will undoubtedly be the South Carolina defensive line against the Clemson offensive line. Make no mistake -Clemson is at a disadvantage here.
Clemson has had equal or sometimes better talent at skill positions before, but the past three years have proven that you can't win if you're being utterly dominated at the line of scrimmage. Clemson's offensive line needs to at least slow up the Carolina rush and give Tajh Boyd some time in the pocket. A year ago, Boyd was on his back nearly the entire game - and we saw the outcome.
Meanwhile, if Boyd does get some time to throw, it could spell doom for Carolina. Clemson receivers Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins are talented enough to hurt a Carolina secondary that has been exposed before (see Tennessee game).
What will happen:
With a South Carolina offense hindered by a slower Connor Shaw and without Marcus Lattimore, Clemson's defense will be able to make keystops after letting the Gamecocks move the ball between the 20's.
Clemson will have to deal with headaches from an aggressive Carolina pass rush, but I expect Boyd to hit one or two deep passes for scores.
The Tigers make a key stop in the fourth quarter and put points on the board after that to put the game out of reach.
South Carolina 23
My, my, we do have a chip on our shoulder, don't we Andrew? "Faux sophisticates?" Ouch! But thanks for the part that we're basically good people and that our school is "reputable." That makes me feel a little better about myself.
As the only one of this pair that actually went to and graduated from one of these colleges (Class of 1990), I can state rather plainly that my journalism training has not done a thing to program the bias out of me in terms of the USC/Clemson rivalry.
I don't like Clemson. Never have. Never will. Even your school colors (seriously, orange and purple?) can set me off.
If you think us USC fans have been a bit uppity these past three years, you're right. I think we've earned the right to crow after years and years of dealing with the unbridled arrogance of Clemson fans that emanates like fresh manure from the rolling hills of Pickens County.
Fact is, USC has finally reached parity and, in many cases, has moved past Clemson in terms of sports, including football. And Clemson fans just can't seem to deal with it.
But to heck with all that. Let's talk about the the game.
This is arguably the biggest Clemson/Carolina game ever. Never have both teams come into the matchup as highly ranked. And the outcome will likely determine if Clemson will play in a BCS bowl come January.
Let's put aside the fact that Clemson has played a powder-puff schedule as a member of the woeful ACC. Despite the fact that Clemson has played only one legitimate team (a loss to Florida State), it has, however, rolled over and completely dominated its lesser opponents unlike years past when the team has lost games it should easily have won.
This is a legitimate Clemson team, and USC fans should acknowledge that and be fearful. Fast, skilled, and overwhelming on offense, thanks to their brilliant offensive coordinator Chad Morris, Clemson will not be an easy team to beat.
And, since the game will be payed at Clemson, expect Death Valley to be rocking, as Clemson fans seek to expunge the bitter memories of three straight beatdowns at the hands of the Gamecocks and coach Steve Spurrier. Indeed, the obnoxiousness level at Death Valley will undoubtedly be cranked up to epic levels come Saturday night. And if the game gets away from the 'Cocks early, that and the frenzied crowd, could prove to be USC's death knell — especially given USC's troubles playing on the road this year.
And it doesn't help USC that its three best players are hobbled. Marcus Lattimore is out, and QB Connor Shaw and defensive end Jadaveon Clowney are hampered by foot injuries. And the team is battered in general, after playing a brutal SEC schedule.
I agree with Andrew that this game, like the past three, could very well be determined by line play. USC's defensive line is a monster, and has dominated Clemson in the past three contests. If the same scenario plays out Saturday, it could be a long night for the Tigers.
Clemson's biggest weakness is its defense, but even that has gotten better as the season has wore on. Teams have finally caught on to USC's read-option offense. That, coupled with Shaw's foot injury and Lattimore's absence, may mean that USC will have to beat Clemson through the air.
A lot of pressure will fall to Kenny Miles to bang out enough yardage to enable Shaw to open up the play-action passing game against a relatively weak Tiger secondary. If that happens, I suspect Carolina, like many of Clemson's opponents, will be able to roll up significant points.
But despite Carolina's fearsome defense, which has an uncanny ability to make plays at the right moments, I expect Clemson to roll up significant yardage all night. Whether it can be successful in the red zone, where USC is at its toughest, will be the key.
Clemson QB Tajh Boyd has turned into a better running quarterback this year. Despite Clemson's great receivers, I suspect that Clemson might try to utilize its running game to wear down the Gamecocks defense, much like LSU did in eking out a win earlier this year. And, like LSU, I suspect Morris will dial up a quick-pass scheme when called for to negate the Gamecocks' powerful pass rush and frustrate Clowney and fellow defensive end Kelcy Quarles.
What will happen:
Clemson, fed by crowd frenzy, will come out and score quickly knocking Carolina back on its heels in the first half, with Chad Morris throwing everything in the Tigers' offensive playbook at the Gamecocks.
Connor Shaw will attempt to establish a passing game early, especially deep-ball throws that will attempt to exploit the Tiger secondary.
If the Gamecocks can go into halftime down less than 10 points, I predict that line play once again will become the primary factor, with USC's front four putting pressure on Boyd, and the Gamecocks' back-7 taking away the Tigers' passing game enough to let a more balanced Gamecock attack begin to roll up points in the second half and eke out a very hard-fought win.
South Carolina 48
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