USC Game Can't Get Any Bigger For Bowden

by - Correspondent -
Bowden and the Tigers rode off with a 63-17 rout on their last visit to Columbia.

CLEMSON - There's talk that this year's Clemson-South Carolina matchup might be the biggest in recent memory. Maybe the biggest ever.

One can understand the hyperbole.

There's the Spurrier factor. USC is 7-3 under its first-year head coach, and after Saturday's win over Florida the Gamecocks find themselves ranked No. 19 in the new Associated Press poll.

There's Clemson's maddening inconsistency which seems to be the calling card of Tommy Bowden's tenure as Tigers' head coach. Except where beating South Carolina is concerned. Bowden is 5-1 in his six games vs. the Gamecocks, including the 63-17 game the last time the teams met in Columbia - the site of Saturday's matchup.

There's the no free television factor this season, which has those without a ticket to the game scrambling for places to catch the pay per view broadcast.

And there's the fact that for the first time in the history of the two school, each defeated a ranked team on the same day this past Saturday.

Yet despite all that, Bowden doesn't view this game as being any more important than any of the previous six. By his reckoning, how could it be?

"Bigger? Not particularly. I've been here long enough to know how big it is," he said during his Sunday teleconference. "It can't get much bigger than it already is...Our players and their players won't need any buildup."

Ah, but there will be buildup.

The media will be in a frenzy all week leading up to Saturday's 7 p.m. kickoff. Radio, television, newspaper, the Internet - all will be scrutinized, analyzed and vilified.

In fact, the coaches might be the only ones not to fall victim to the madness. Spurrier, while still able to drop a zinger at a moment's notice, has been noticeably less inflammatory since taking over the Gamecocks. The confrontational personality he displayed at Florida seemingly has been replaced by one more intent on having fun again after two difficult years in the NFL.

And Bowden?

Once quoted as saying he hoped every Clemson-USC matchup came with his team 10-0 and the Gamecocks 0-10, the Tigers' mentor has since decided it might be better for everyone involved if both teams were good.

"You get a little more mature," he said. "You'd like for this state to be successful. I wish success on them and success on us. Let's have two good teams and go play a game that means something."

Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger and TigerNet. He also hosts SportsTalk from 9 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.

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