CLEMSON, SC - Tommy Bowden figures he'll win his share against South Carolina.
"Most of the great rivalries are fifty-fifty," he said.
Somehow, though, things don't seem so even to Bowden this year, his first at Clemson. He figures he better start getting his share of the wins Saturday. A loss wouldn't cost him his job -- just plenty of sleep and aggravation.
Clemson in a two-touchdown favorite. Bowden doesn't know why.
Anyone figuring South Carolina has had more pain and suffering that one school should be allowed to endure just has to talk to Bowden.
Bring up the topic of South Carolina's troubles. Bowden can tell you about his own.
"We've lost our starting quarterback. They do have their starting quarterback," he said. "They've got more seniors. We lost a lineman in the spring, we had to move T.J. Watkins from tight end to tackle. We lost Will Merritt, our starting guard to injury. Yeah, I've been in the situation they've been in."
Bring up the topic of South Carolina's schedule. Bowden will quickly point out that Clemson's schedule is ranked No. 1 in the country. He said, in effect, his team's been beat up, tossed about and is just crawling toward the finish line.
Listen long enough to Bowden, and you wonder why South Carolina isn't favored.
"They don't look at the film," said Bowden of those that think Clemson should win easily. "They start more seniors on offense than we do. Their line is bigger than us. There's no doubt that after ten games, we'll see the best team they have fielded this year. I don't think we've seen their best team yet because of injuries and things like that."
Bowden is hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. He figures he's in a no-win situation. If he wins, he probably won't win by enough to satisfy Clemson fans looking for blood against a team that's 0-10. If he loses, well, he doesn't want to think about that. It's tough enough, he said, just making it though the game.
"The games are no fun. I hate the games. I get sick all day."
A loss would leave him with plenty to think about and more time to think.
Clemson needs a win for a bowl invitation, more practice time and recruiting ammunition. He doesn't need it to keep his job. In fact, he's prepared to play the game with an untested, unheralded quarterback if Woody Dantzler goes down during the game. He said he would play Matt Schell instead of Willie Simmons if Dantzler were injured. In the eleventh game of the season, he isn't willing to ruin Simmons' red-shirt year for a win.
"Four and five years from now is how they'll evaluate me," he said. "If this was my fourth or fifth year, I might have a different feeling."
For now, he's trying to survive an 0-10 team that in his eyes looks more like a trap than a gimme.