'They hate us and the feeling is mutual': Clemson game gives Gamecocks one last chance to salvage season
Even with this lopsided rivalry on tap, the game will mercifully deliver us from Statement Week.
A week after new school president Robert Caslen released a flurry of statements and clarifications about Will Muschamp’s future, we will turn our attention back to the field, where the Gamecocks will have one last gasp to make something of this drama-filled season.
The Gamecocks are set to get several key players back from injury next Saturday against Clemson. However, perhaps their most important player, receiver Bryan Edwards, is doubtful following knee surgery, even as he’s one shy of the school’s touchdown receptions record held by Sidney Rice and Alshon Jeffery.
That’s not a good sign for the struggling offense against a Clemson team that is one of two in FBS (along with Georgia) that hasn’t allowed more than 20 points in a game this season.
This year’s game will be at Williams-Brice Stadium, and Clemson players are well aware of their last visit to Columbia. It’s the kind of thing typically reserved for a heated rivalry.
“I don’t think they really like us,” Clemson right guard Gage Cervenka said, according to video from TigerNet. “I think the biggest thing is their student section’s throwing trash on us. That’s my most recent memory. I just love it, though. I really do. I just love going to that place because I just know they hate us, and the feeling is mutual. It really is. I’ll straight up say it.”
The 4-7 Gamecocks will fall short of six wins for the second time since 2004 (2015) even with a monumental upset of No. 3 Clemson. The Gamecocks won’t have a noon kickoff to sneak up on the opponent, like they did against Georgia. No matter how confident Clemson fans are, most understand the rivalry aspect removes the chance that the Tigers will look past the Gamecocks.
The Tigers lead the all-time series 70-42-4, including a 51-32-3 advantage when the game has been played in Columbia. South Carolina is looking for its first win over that team from the Upstate since 2013.
The five-game skid has come by an average of 23.4 points:
- 56-35 last season;
- 34-10 in 2017;
- 56-7 in 2016;
- 37-32 in 2015;
- 35-17 in 2014.
Certainly South Carolina is capable of pulling off the upset, and not only in the rivalry sense of throwing out the records. The Georgia upset is Exhibit A, and that was on the road. Being capable has never been the problem for the Gamecocks this season.
“Like Coach Muschamp said, we can right a lot of wrongs by beating Clemson,” cornerback Jaycee Horn said. “It’s a top-four opponent, (a) big rivalry. We’ve just got to go back to the drawing board (and) give it our all one last time.”
Clemson has won its past six games by an average of 43 points. But it has yet to completely erase its one-point win at North Carolina from criticism — a game that gave the “eye test” observers pause for considering the Tigers in the College Football Playoff top four. That began the narrative that Clemson’s schedule is weaker than a cheap tent.
Clemson opened as a 24.5-point favorite at South Carolina. That’s the second largest in all of the Rivalry Week games in the SEC, only to Georgia’s 30.5-point spread against Georgia Tech. It’s the largest point spread this season in a South Carolina game, and the third time in the past four Palmetto Bowls that Clemson has been at least a 20-point favorite. Clemson was also a 20.5-point favorite in 2015.
Because of the nature of college football perception these days, Clemson needs to win this game handily. A bad loss would be damaging to Clemson’s CFP argument, or even a game like last year’s. Though Clemson won handily, South Carolina drew a positive from it because it rang up 600 total yards, including 510 passing, and 29 first downs.
At a minimum, South Carolina needs a notable improvement on offense to at least change the lopsided recent history of this rivalry. An incredible bonus would be a season-saving upset.