When South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley came out in March and said Clemson was “not that much better than us or better than us at all,” it sparked a little fire in the rivalry.
Though the Gamecocks were drilled 56-7 by the Tigers last November, Bentley’s words piqued the interest of everyone involved in the rivalry. Over the weekend, Clemson linebacker Judah Davis trolled Gamecock fans on twitter. So the rivalry definitely has its moments and its obvious the two teams and their fans don’t like each other.
The memory of South Carolina beating the Tigers five straight years from 2009-‘13 is still fresh in the mind of Clemson fans, while the Tigers’ 49-point win last November—the second largest margin of victory in the history of the game—has led to the Gamecocks’ new motto “never again.”
There is definitely dislike among the two schools, and there always will be. They will always be rivals.
However, are the Gamecocks Clemson’s biggest rivals at the present time? A rivalry is more than just about bragging rights over another. It’s also about how it relates in the big picture – division supremacy, conference championships and the College Football Playoff.
When you throw in those factors, there is no doubt that Clemson’s chief rival is the Florida State Seminoles. Since 2009, when Dabo Swinney led the Tigers to their first Atlantic Division title, the winner of the Clemson-Florida State game has played in the ACC Championship Game eight straight years.
Since 2011, when the Tigers won their first ACC title in 20 years, the Clemson-FSU winner has won the conference championship each of the last six years (three each). As for what’s gone on head-to-head in the last eight years, the series is dead even. Clemson has won four games, while the Seminoles have won the other four.
The main reason FSU has become Clemson’s chief rival, at the present time, is the game is no longer just about conference supremacy, now it is having an effect on the national picture as well. Since 2013, the Clemson-FSU winner has played for the national championship three times, while winning it twice.
In the brief three-year history of the College Football Playoff, either Florida State or Clemson has participated and the odds are the winner of this year’s game will be there again.
In its 2017 ACC Preview Magazine, Athlon called the Clemson-Florida State game its Game of the Year in college football.
Jon Solomon writes in the article, “Rest in peace, Alabama-LSU, at least until the Tigers snap their six-game losing streak to Nick Saban. We see you, Ohio State-Michigan—which had a classic thriller last year—but Jim Harbaugh still must beat Urban Meyer to get the series over the hump.
“Neither of those games feels like where we’re at with Clemson-Florida State, which is the game that’s most likely to have huge national championship implications each year. That’s what we mean by ‘best.’ We don’t mean best rivalry, most watched game or even necessarily the most well-played game.
“Rather, Clemson-Florida State is the one game you can bank on having to watch to figure out the College Football Playoff.”
Solomon points out only four schools have had top-15 teams in each of the past five years: Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State and Clemson.
“Clemson-Florida State has produced five straight years of top-15 final rankings for both teams, something the Alabama-LSU series never accomplished under Saban and Les Miles,” he writes.
South Carolina is always going to be Clemson’s rival. The two schools and their fans do not like each other and bragging rights in the Palmetto State are important to each. However, unless the Clemson-Carolina rivalry gets to the level where Clemson-Florida State is currently at, it is going to be hard for Clemson to view South Carolina as its biggest game.
Right now, and there is no doubt here, the Florida State game is Clemson’s biggest game on the schedule and I bet the Seminoles feel the same way.
–Photo Credit: Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports
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