Special to TigerNet from the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger
CLEMSON --- Tommy Bowden isn’t the kind of coach who normally reads the sports section during the football season. He prefers not to look at one at all, but occasionally on road trips a few will be put in his hotel room where he will take a peek at the advantage boxes if a paper has one about his game.
“As soon as I see my name, I’ll stop reading,” he said to the media during Tuesday’s press conference for the South Carolina game. “But if you got one of those boxes, it usually doesn’t refer to me personally. It just has boxes like staff, momentum, home field advantage, kicking, all of those things you guys do.
“I can look at that and not see a personal reference made to me. I don’t feel as bad. I can go in to the game a little more confident.”
But Bowden sounded far from confident when it came to talking about this week’s game with USC. He made no bones about who the media should put checks beside in those boxes.
According to the Clemson head coach the Gamecocks (7-3) have the advantage in just about every category he could think of.
“Right now they are playing with a lot of confidence,” Bowden said. “As you evaluate head coaches for example, (Steve Spurrier) has a Heisman Trophy. He has won a national championship and won a lot of games. I have won a Conference USA title.”
According to Bowden, the Gamecocks also get the edge in their coaching staff, (USC has four former defensive coordinators and two head coaches), momentum (five-game winning streak), home field advantage and experience (Clemson is playing as many as 10 freshmen on defense).
“I think if you just look statistically they will have every box checked going into this game,” Bowden said. “We’ll have to play extremely well. I have to make sure my team goes in feeling not tight and tense.
“Mentally, I have to do a good job of having my team ready to play.”
Bowden does admit when playing a rival, one can generally throw all of those things out because after all, it’s a rivalry game. But with that said, there is one factor Bowden says he can’t throw out – the Spurrier factor.
“He is a great motivator,” Bowden said. “One of the things that have amazed me about him being in the SEC was his ability to play Florida State -- a cold blooded game as you could possibly want.
“They had NFL players all over the field, going hat to hat for 60 minutes. And then the next game, he has to play Alabama, Auburn, LSU or one of those jokers and he won a lot more than he lost. Man how do you get your team up five, six, seven days later for the most important game of the year?
“If he loses the championship game he is out of a national championship game or a BCS bowl game. That’s what I have respect for more than anything, is his ability to have his team rise to the occasion in a situation like that.”
It appears Spurrier has used that same tactic to get to his current USC team. After starting the season 2-3 and following a 48-7 loss to Auburn, Spurrier called out his players and said if he thought any one of them wasn’t playing to their fullest potential he was going to bench them.
Since then, the Gamecocks haven’t lost.
“They’re playing with tremendous momentum,” said Bowden. “They have a five-game winning streak. They’re doing things they haven’t done at South Carolina in the history of the school or maybe a long time.”
It’s just Bowden’s luck. After going 5-1 against one future Hall of Famer in Lou Holtz, South Carolina replaces him with another.
“I have finally got the job that I have dreamed and wondered about. The first guy they hire is a Hall of Fame guy and the next guy is a Hall of Fame guy,” Bowden said. “Not only are they Hall of Fame guys, they have won national championships. Coach Holtz has over 200 victories and Coach Spurrier has 150.
“You could not have picked two guys I don’t think in the coaching profession that could have made my job more difficult since I have been here.”
But Bowden likes the role of being the underdog.
“I prefer the underdog. I have always been an underdog,” he said. “I think that’s why my father gets a chip on his shoulder when they are playing teams that have coaches that have won a lot of games. He’s an underdog type guy and Terry is the same thing.”
But being the underdog doesn’t guarantee the Tigers a victory.
“We are probably used to being the underdog, but again, that doesn’t give me any more reason for success because (Spurrier) has had a lot more success,” said Bowden. “He has 150 wins, I have 50 here.
“Underdog doesn’t necessarily help you. It puts me in the most realistic picture based on the facts as they are. I prefer the underdog and the statistics do show we are the underdog.”
Which Bowden has put a check beside as the Tigers’ only advantage.