It’s rivalry week, folks!

Christmas come early here for us SEC fans. As a player, I was only focused on the Clemson game and didn’t really care about any other rivalry. As a kid growing up in Tampa, Fla., all I cared about was the Florida vs. Florida State rivalry. Now as a member of the media, I’ve gotten a chance to watch every team in the entire SEC this year and gain knowledge about all their rivals.

I’ve been amazed at how big some of these games are and how fierce they are. I’m not sure what everyone else calls their rivalry week, but we called it Clemson “hate week.” This rivalry is definitely a hateful one (YouTube the SC vs. Clemson brawl of 2004).

While at South Carolina, we typically played a lower-division team right before we played Clemson. Those games were clutch because we got a chance to take a breath from the gauntlet of our SEC conference games. As we all saw last week, most SEC teams are following that same schedule thought. Every now and then, it’s nice to take a break and get a chance to take a breath. As a player, it was huge for us, both mentally and physically.

As a first-year starter for South Carolina in 2009, we didn’t have exactly a great year, but we were bowl-eligible and that was a big deal for SC back then. We were unranked and had a 6-5 record heading into the Clemson game. Clemson was on a two-game win streak against us, ranked fairly high when it came into Columbia.

We beat the breaks off Clemson that game and we haven’t lost to them since. It’s been five years since the Clemson Tigers beat the Gamecocks, and I feel that this year will be six straight.

Both teams are sort of equal. A lot of people (outside of SC of course) forget Dylan Thompson was a sophomore when Connor Shaw was injured and couldn’t play in 2012. Dylan and Gamecocks were having a very good year and headed into Clemson as pretty big underdogs. Long story short, Dylan kept the steak alive and threw all over the Tigers defense in Death Valley.

The South Carolina offense has been really the only bright spot of the team this year. I do think that their defense has been playing a little better these last few games, and with Cole Stoudt playing for Clemson, I like the Gamecocks to win this weekend.

As a former quarterback that played in this rivalry and won in Death Valley (2010), I know that if the Gamecocks get up early, the Clemson fans get real quiet. I always enjoyed winning on the road and shutting up all the opposing teams fans.