The talk about rivalry week continued as Clemson gets closer to its annual face-off with arch rival South Carolina this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Head coach Dabo Swinney held his Tuesday press conference to discuss South Carolina and what the rivalry means to the state.
Here is what we heard:
Swinney said the South Carolina game always feels like a season of its own with how much importance people within the state place on the outcome.
“It stands alone. That’s why it’s a goal listed on a goal board. It’s fun to be a part of rivalry games regardless of where you are,” Swinney said. “This is a special week because it means a lot to a lot of people. We’re looking forward to competing against these guys.”
Although the outcome impacts the fans, Swinney said winning or losing does not really impact recruiting within the state because the two programs are vastly different.
“We really don’t compete with South Carolina as much in state as you would think, and the reason is we’re just so different,” Swinney said. “I mean you couldn’t have more differences in the program, the locations, the environments, you name it, conferences or whatever. So, usually if a kid just loves South Carolina, he’s probably not going to like Clemson too much.”
While it may not mean as much in recruiting, defensive coordinator Brent Venables knows just how much this matchup means to everyone else.
“If they stand for what is right, then this game means everything to them. In a week from now, that next game for us is going to mean everything, too,” Venables said. “This game, for a lot of other people that are not in this football building every day, it might go to an all-time high from an interest and we have to win it, and I get that too. That’s part of the rivalry. That’s going on across the country this week and everybody thinks they have the biggest rivalry in college football. I know in this state there is nothing bigger and more important when it comes to all things football.”
Swinney and Venables both offered praise for what freshman quarterback Jake Bentley has been able to do to turn the program around in South Carolina. While he is young, they say that he will not be overwhelmed by Clemson’s Death Valley.
“They have a good future with him. He has good poise, good decision making, you can see he is well schooled. He throws a great ball. He has some strength in the pocket. He has excellent pocket awareness and presence. All their young guys are playing well but he is playing with confidence and obviously he is 4-1 as a starter,” Venables said.
As a freshman going on the road to play at South Carolina for the first time, tight end Jordan Leggett shared a story about how the Gamecock fans swarmed to the Clemson bus as it pulled close to the stadium.
“Their fans are great, but they’re pretty crazy. They’re going to ride or die with their team no matter what, so it’s pretty cool, but it’s just pretty crazy, too. I was just sitting there like, ‘There’s no way they can get on the bus, right?’” Leggett said, laughing. “There’s no way, but other than that, I was just ready to get in the locker room.”
Clemson is thankful to have the opportunity to play South Carolina under the lights in Death Valley this year. Leggett added he enjoys having the opportunity to play the Gamecocks at the end of the season.
“It’s definitely a huge game for all of us because it’s our next-door neighbor,” Leggett said. “It’s like the bully at school. It’s always fun to play them at the end of the year because then whoever loses has to deal with it for the whole year after that. So, it’s pretty exciting. Hopefully we come out on top and keep this streak going.”
Clemson has won the last two games in the series and leads it overall 67-42-4.