South Carolina football: Little brother? Gamecocks gave Clemson better fight than Alabama or Notre Dame
That Palmetto Bowl continues to age well, if not on the scoreboard, then certainly in the box score.
South Carolina scored 35 points against Clemson last Nov. 24 — more than anybody else. Alabama and Notre Dame totaled 19 points in the two College Football Playoff games against the Tigers. The Gamecocks had 600 yards, while the Crimson Tide and Fighting Irish combined for 691. In passing yards, South Carolina had 510, compared to a combined 455 by both Alabama and Notre Dame.
WR Deebo Samuel put it simply, “Me and my dawgs had a better fight than this.”
Me and my dawgs had a better fight than this
— UnoCaptain‼️❌ (@19problemz) January 8, 2019
That might have been why Will Muschamp was especially defiant during SEC Media Days last week when he was asked if South Carolina was Clemson’s “little brother.”
“No, we’re not the little brother, we’re not, OK? No,” Muschamp said.
— Mike Gillespie (@MikeABCColumbia) July 17, 2019
If Clemson making Alabama look human weren’t enough to give the Gamecocks reason for optimism to come out of the SEC, then perhaps it’s that the Garnet and Black can lay claim to the best offensive showcase against the Tigers. The 35 points South Carolina scored not only were 9 more than anybody else managed against Clemson last season, it was the most anybody scored against the Tigers since 2016.
Sure, it might have lit a fire under the Tigers defensively, and propelled them to ultimately knock off Alabama, but given WR Bryan Edwards’ return in 2019, there’s plenty of reasons South Carolina can expect to duplicate that offensive output for the foreseeable future.
A glimpse at the 2019 schedule also shows 2 common opponents with Clemson that the Gamecocks will have a chance to measure themselves against in the SEC: Alabama and Texas A&M. Muschamp has embraced the demanding schedule, and deflected it by saying that the schedule is difficult every year. He also added that this is the best team he’s had in Columbia, and probably the best team going back at least one more year.
Patience might be a difficult thing to swallow when South Carolina appears looking square in the eye of a pair of uphill battles against its most fierce rivals, Clemson and Georgia. But looking back at one of the more memorable games in South Carolina’s history offers an important context in the afterglow of the rival’s national title.
Before the Steve Spurrier-led Gamecocks had 3 consecutive 11-2 seasons, they knocked off No. 1 Alabama in 2010 en route to a 9-5 season when they won the SEC East.
Beating any of those 3 marquee opponents — Alabama, Clemson or Texas A&M — would offer Muschamp a legitimate signature victory. Pulling an upset at Georgia following the off week would also fit in that category.
Keep in mind, it took Clemson 8 full seasons under Dabo Swinney to win its first national title of this recent run. What South Carolina needs in the near future is a building block, such as snapping the 5-game losing streaks against Kentucky and Texas A&M.
Spurrier made a dramatic culture shift for the Gamecocks program. Muschamp is trying to surpass it, and could even steal a page from Swinney and Saban and insert freshman QB Ryan Hilinski at an opportune time, like Tua Tagovailoa or Trevor Lawrence.
Swinney had plenty of building block recruits, from C.J. Spiller to Deshaun Watson, who went to Clemson when previously no other player of their caliber did. South Carolina has at least two game-changers like that: Hilinski and Zacch Pickens, at least coming out of recruiting season.
Instead of dismissing Clemson’s championship as the latest storm cloud over Columbia, perhaps look at it as another piece of a blueprint that South Carolina is still in the early stages of creating.
As Muschamp said after the forgettable Belk Bowl loss to Virginia, “These guys are fighting their ass off. We’re recruiting the right guys. They aren’t gonna lay down. I’ll tell you that.” It’s that kind of mindset that could lead them into an upset against one of the toughest upcoming schedules in the country.
Remember, even Swinney’s first 3 double-digit win seasons included losses to the Gamecocks.
South Carolina can’t match the national title at the moment, but it can set out on a course to be in the CFP mix in just a few years.