There is probably no one playing or coaching in this week’s Clemson-South Carolina game that has a better perspective on the rivalry than Jeff Scott.
As a teenager, he grew up around in the rivalry. His dad, Brad Scott, became the Gamecocks’ head coach in 1994. Over the next five years, Jeff was immersed into the rivalry from the South Carolina perspective.
When his father was let go in Columbia following the 1998 season, Jeff found himself at Clemson after his dad took a job as an assistant coach under Tommy Bowden. Two years later, he was holding the ball for Aaron Hunt on a game-winning field goal to beat the Gamecocks in one of Clemson’s most dramatic wins in the series.
In 2008, Jeff Scott came back to Clemson as a graduate assistant coach and quickly moved to wide receivers coach after Bowden stepped down and Dabo Swinney was named the interim head coach. He has been at Clemson ever since.
Saturday’s 116th edition of the rivalry in Clemson (7 p.m./ESPN) will mark the 25th year Scott has been involved in the rivalry.
“It is college football in a state where it matters, and I think that is awesome,” he said. “I have talked to a lot of my buddies that coach at other places across the country and it does not matter as much there. I think as a college coach, to be in a state where college football is so important … at the end of the day you like coaching at a place where football matters. You have passionate fans on both sides that have a lot of energy.”
Clemson (11-0) is currently listed as a 25-point favorite against the Gamecocks, one of the highest betting lines in the history of the rivalry. The Tigers are looking for their fifth straight win against South Carolina, something the program has not done since it won seven in a row in the series way back in 1934-’40.
During its current four-game stretch, Clemson has beat the Gamecocks (6-4) by an average margin of 24 points, including a 56-7 victory at Death Valley two years ago. However, Scott says none of that matters this year.
“As a coach, we have a very guarded mindset because you have just done it long enough to know,” he said.
The Clemson coach used this year’s Syracuse game as an example of why coaches and players cannot listen to all the noise and distractions that are coming from outside the Allen Reeves Football Complex. The Tigers were a four-touchdown favorite against the Orange but needed a Travis Etienne touchdown with 41 seconds to play to win the game, 27-23.
“It does not take many of those experience whereas as a coach you don’t worry about what the point spread is and what people may perceive what happens,” Scott said.
As a Clemson graduate, Scott has a lot of friends that are Clemson fans and they texted him this week saying Clemson is going to win 50-0 over the Gamecocks.
Scott just laughs when he reads the text messages, “I am over here trying to figure out how we are going to score the first touchdown. That is literally where my mind is. I am like, ‘You guys have no idea. Y’all don’t want to here my opinion right now because I am a little bit nerved up right here thinking different things.’ It is different when you are in the middle of it.
“As a coach, we don’t get caught up in it. We will see it. We will see what the point spread is. We really just laugh about it a little bit and move on because we know.”
Scott says the Tigers have the upmost respect for Will Muschamp and the Gamecocks. They know how well they have recruited, and they know the kind of talent they have down in Columbia.
He also knows they will not be intimidated to come into Death Valley and play.
“They have had some really good wins this year on the road at places that traditionally are hard to win,” Scott said. “So, we don’t take any of that for granted. Our guys understand that and that is one reason why we have been able to be a consistent program because Coach Swinney does a good job keeping our players and staff of one mindset that it is not about any of that outside stuff, it is about how we play and how we perform and kind of block out some of that outside noise.”