This morning on our radio show, we spent a few minutes discussing the national profile of the state of South Carolina as it relates to college football. It’s a discussion most long-time residents of the state likely figured would never happen.
Frankly, the fact that it’s even a plausible conversation is a victory for the state in and of itself.
Let me be clear: This is not a “let’s-all-hold-hands-and-sing-a-happy-song” post today. It’s not designed to make the relationship between Clemson and South Carolina harmonious. Rivalry is rivalry, and that’s the way it should be.
But just because the two schools absolutely hate each other’s guts doesn’t mean there isn’t mutual benefit to experiencing shared success.
Looking at the general landscape of the sport across the Palmetto State, there are some strong programs in the lower levels of play as well. Furman and Coastal Carolina both made the FCS playoffs. Charleston Southern would have done the same if not for an upset loss on the final weekend of the regular season. Wofford is still Wofford. There is talent there.
But the flagship programs in the state still carry the torch. Ultimately, that is how states like Florida, Texas, California, and others are measured. South Carolina doesn’t exactly fit like a glove into this conversation, but the rest of the nation might need to start taking notice.
The Tigers and Gamecocks both finished inside of the nation’s top eight in the final Associated Press poll. Only the state of Alabama can say it houses a pair of teams with that distinction.
We won’t even go into detail concerning how many award semifinalists and finalists are on both of these teams. Suffice it to say the number is large—very large.
The Tigers and Gamecocks both knocked off formidable ranked foes in bowl games. Both played and won multiple nationally-televised games this season.
The in-state success even extends to the professional ranks. 12 different players who call Clemson their alma mater started in an NFL game this season. Two made the NFL All-Rookie Team. South Carolina had ten alumni that started in the league this season. Alshon Jeffery is a Pro Bowler.
People have often wondered if the state of South Carolina could ever house two consistently elite programs. It ranks 24th in population among all U.S. states based on the most recent available data, but per capita, it ranks among the nation’s leaders in players drafted and players who sign with major college programs year after year.
In short, this is a great time to be a native of South Carolina during football season. It’s a great time to be an alumnus of both in-state schools.
We may bicker and brag, but there is no denying the college football universe currently revolves around two states: Alabama and South Carolina. It is an honor to hail from the one that seems out of place.