Normally, this is the week Clemson is getting set to play in-state rival South Carolina. But as we all know, 2020 has not been a normal year.
For the first time since 1908, Clemson and South Carolina will not meet on the gridiron. The SEC decided college football’s oldest uninterrupted rivalry in the South, and the second longest in the country, was not important enough to play. The SEC decided back on July 30 its 14 schools would play just conference games only.
So, instead of getting ready to play the Gamecocks at Death Valley for a 112th straight year on Saturday, which was on the original schedule before the pandemic hit, third-ranked Clemson is instead getting ready to play a team from up North in Pittsburgh, a program it has only faced three other times in its rich history.
“It is still weird,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “It has just been my norm for so long.”
This would be Swinney’s 18th Clemson-Carolina game. His first experience in the rivalry came in 2003, when the Tigers whipped the Gamecocks 63-17 in Columbia.
Swinney has been the head coach at Clemson 12 times in the rivalry, including a 31-14 win over South Carolina in 2008, when he was the Tigers’ interim head coach. The following week, former Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips removed the interim tag from Swinney’s title and the rest has been history.
“This time of year, you are supposed to be playing your in-state rival,” Swinney said. “I did that for thirteen years at Alabama and now into year eighteen here. It is definitely different, that is for sure.”
Clemson is 11-6 against the Gamecocks since Swinney was hired by Tommy Bowden to be his wide receivers’ coach in 2003. The Tigers are 7-5 against South Carolina under Swinney, including six straight victories, the second longest win streak in the history of the rivalry. It is topped only by Clemson’s seven-game win streak from 1934-’40.
Last year, Clemson beat South Carolina 38-3 in Columbia.
“Practice is the same and all of that (this week), but it is definitely a different feeling.” Swinney said.
Overall, the two teams’ 117 meetings on the gridiron make their rivalry the 11th oldest in the country and the third oldest in the South. Clemson’s and South Carolina’s campuses are separated by 132 miles. A two-and-a-half-hour drive.
Clemson and Carolina first met on the football field in 1896, a 12-6 South Carolina victory. Only two other times in its history has the series been interrupted.
In 1901, the game was not played due to a dispute with State Fair officials regarding gate receipts. Then from 1903-’08 the game was not played following a near riot between 400 Clemson cadets and South Carolina students in 1902. USC students displayed a bad-tasting transparency towards Clemson in the Elks’ Parade the Friday following the Gamecocks’ win.
The series was resumed in 1909 and they have played every year until this year.
Clemson leads the all-time series 71-42-4. In case you are wondering, the Gamecocks are playing Georgia this week. That is weird.
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