Clemson-USC Always History in the Making
By BJ Bennett
Follow us at Twitter.com/SouthernPigskin. Become a fan at the SouthernPigskin.com Facebook Page
For a series that has often been lopsided in favor of the Tigers, Clemson-South Carolina has a history that dates back to the 1890s and a passion as strong as any.
Saturday night's Clemson-South Carolina game looms with a number of interesting storylines. The Tigers and Gamecocks both enter the weekend ranked in the national top 12, the spat between Dabo Swinney and Steve Spurrier has fanned the flames and pundits are intrigued by the two team's dramatically differing styles. More so, a USC victory would make it four straight for the visitors from Columbia. That would match the school's longest streak in the series, tying a stretch from 1951-1954.
While this edition of one of college football's most underrated rivalries has the potential to be a special one, one of the most memorable moments in this game's history occurred decades before any players on the current rosters were even born.
Back in 1961, the Sigma Nu fraternity at South Carolina decided they wanted to prank their rivals to the west. The game was being played at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, a showdown pairing the Gamecocks of Marvin Bass and the Tigers of Frank Howard. Prior to the game, members of the fraternity were able to acquire mock Tiger uniforms, pads and all, from a local high school. Before the actual football team took the field in front of the home crowd, the Carolina frat boys did in full Clemson regalia. When the perceived-players took the field, the home fans roared and the school band struck up a stirring rendition of "Tiger Rag". The players promptly responded by falling down on the field, dropping passes, missing kicks and running into each other. Realizing the ploy, some Clemson fans rushed the field with fists clinched. Security was able to prevent the scuffle, but they weren't able to prevent the spoof.
South Carolina went on to win the game, their antics in some ways proving to be foreshadowing, as Clemson couldn't convert from the USC one-yard line and the Gamecocks prevailed 21-14.
For a series that has often been lopsided in favor of the Tigers, Clemson-South Carolina has a history that dates back to the 1890s and passion as strong as any rivalry in college football. With just two FBS football programs in the Palmetto State, there is a very important line drawn in the dirt. One, home to the Gamecock faithful, pushes east towards the coast throughout the low country. The other, Clemson orange and white, cascades west into the rolling hills of the Appalachians.
While these two teams are separated by conference affiliations and correlating championship aspirations, the first weekend in December isn't highlighted at the beginning of the year -- the last Saturday in November is. This regular season finale will mark senior night for an accomplished collection of Clemson veterans.
"What a special group. They're leaving here with the most conference wins in school history," Swinney stated.
Tiger upperclassmen have an ACC Championship and may very well have taken their team to consecutive BCS bowls by the time it's all said and done. What they don't yet have, however, is a win over their archrivals. It's a stat star quarterback Tajh Boyd, who scored eight total touchdowns in his last game, is well-aware of.
"Beat South Carolina," he detailed of his to-do list. "We have not defeated them in three years. It is one of those deals where it has to happen. We just want to be the best team possible. Right now, the best situation we can be in is to be 11-1. We would love to be undefeated right now, but it just did work out that way. You just have to be ready to compete."
The Gamecocks, minus team leader Marcus Lattimore, enter the upstate with something they haven't had often during their program's history: recent control of the series. South Carolina's seniors are going for the clean sweep over their in-state foes. In that three-game run, Carolina has outscored Clemson 97-37.
"We've been pretty fortunate lately. Our guys haven't lost to them, our seniors," Spurrier explained. "We've had some good fortune. Hopefully it will keep up, we've got to wait and see."
With a victory, Spurrier would move ahead of Rex Enright for the most coaching wins in South Carolina football history. Though breaking that record on the road, against one's top rival, would be quite the coup, Spurrier says he hasn't given the mark much consideration.
"I haven't thought much about that really. Us against them is big enough to talk about," he continued. "I don't think it's that big of a deal. The bigness of this game is who wins between us and them."
Such is Clemson-South Carolina. Records and postseason bids are pushed aside for the most important game of the year. As the coaches have suggested, here a team that might or might not be "The Real USC" will enter a venue that might or might not be "The Real Death Valley". Something will have to give.
This is a rivalry as tense as any in college football, passions rooted in the state's obsession with both pigskin and pride. Clemson-South Carolina isn't just the type of series where memories are made. It's the type of game where the best of them live on forever.