CLEMSON - When Clemson and South Carolina tee it up for the 100th time today
at Death Valley, subplots will abound.
For Clemson, a win means a 7-5 finish and a likely bowl upgrade. For the
Gamecocks, they need the victory to finish 6-6 and reach bowl eligibility.
But even if there were nothing on the line today, this game would remain the
most important of the season for many of the fans of these two schools. It is
a fact not lost on Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden.
"The rivalry is the biggest factor," he said. "It's bigger than trying to
maintain a winning record and what bowl we go to. It's the No. 1 priority."
Bowden should know.
Coming from one of the first family's of the modern era of college football,
the game has been with him since birth. While his father Bobby was crafting a
legend at Florida State, Tommy was toiling away for 25 years as an assistant
That much time in apprenticeship tends to give one an understanding of the
role rivalries play in the lives of fans, especially when some of those
assistant coaching jobs were at places like Alabama and Auburn.
For Bowden, it has become a way of life.
"If you lose, words like mortuary and obituary come to mind," he said.
"Around here, it's a significant game. Personally, football is important and
it's a big part of my life. It is not the most important, however. It's not
going to initiate a slashing of the wrist or something of that nature.
"But it's a big game. In the coaching profession, this type of game is your
Of course, being the largest game also means it carries the most pressure to
win, at least among fans, alumni and boosters.
The Tigers and Gamecocks seem to present opposite images of one another
heading into Death Valley. Clemson is thought of as a finesse, pass-oriented
offense. USC's reputation is one of a tough, physical defense.
But they do have one thing in common. Both have exhibited troubles scoring
points of late - USC in it's four-game losing streak, Clemson against anyone
not named Duke or North Carolina.
For the Tigers, the questions are simple:
- Can they protect quarterback Charlie Whitehurst?
- Can they find a way to run the ball?
- Can they stop USC from dominating the game with the run?
Bowden worries about all three, especially the Gamecocks' rushing attack.
"Everybody tries to go out there and see what they can do with the running
game," Bowden said. "Andrew Pinnock is an awful good back, he's been playing
since he was
a true freshman. Their quarterback is another running back. They have a
similar scenario as to us last year, where the quarterback running the ball
can present a little bit of a problem."