Third-ranked Clemson continues its preparation to take on No. 24 South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia on Saturday night.
On Tuesday, the media spoke to head coach Dabo Swinney, defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, linebacker Dorian O’Daniel, and tight end Milan Richard on the significance of the “Battle of the Palmetto State.”
Here is what we heard:
Swinney, along with each and every member of the Clemson football program, knows what this rivalry holds. However, the Clemson coach put the rivalry in perspective on Tuesday.
“Last year we won the national championship, lost to Pittsburgh,” Swinney said. “If we had won the national championship and lost to South Carolina, nobody was running up to us at church going, ‘Hey, congratulations on the national championship, but you lost to Pittsburgh.’ Everybody moved on. But this is one nobody moves on from, and I’ve been on both sides of it obviously.
“South Carolina is truly a season of its own. That’s our total focus this week, and we’re excited to take on a good South Carolina team.”
Veterans such as graduate linebacker O’Daniel have been aware of the rivalry since recruiting visits, which would make going 4-0 against South Carolina on Satruday all the more special.
“I know during one of my visits when I came here, Clemson lost and it sucked the life out of the Valley” O’Daniel said. “I knew from then on what the rivalry meant, it’s the battle of the (Palmetto) State.
“We are playing with a lot of pride behind that. To be a senior class that hasn’t lost to them is definitely something we take pride in as well as the rest of the team who has been there for that time.”
Clemson football’s mantra definitely holds true this time of year. The South Carolina game truly is the Tigers’ “biggest game of the year.”
“This game is a season of its own” Wilkins said. “No matter what you do all season, even in the postseason, this game has more meaning to it and holds more weight.”
And most of the players are buying into that approach. Rivalry week on the road means extra preparation.
“I think there’s a little bit of a different approach,” Richard said. “Just knowing that you’re probably going to have to be that much more focused because it’s away and because the odds are stacked against you. It’s kind of, ‘us against the world’ mentality.”