Clemson vying for piece of history in game that 'means a lot to a lot of people'

Clemson vying for piece of history in game that 'means a lot to a lot of people'

Football

Clemson vying for piece of history in game that 'means a lot to a lot of people'

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In case you’re not familiar with just how much the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry means to both sides, the Tigers’ coaches and players provided some context this week.

“You might be in the store and not many people are going to come up to you and say, ‘Hey man, you lost that game to Pitt,'” Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “But if you lose that game to South Carolina, people are going to remind you every single day.”

Veteran linebacker James Skalski, who’s been around to witness it for six years as a player, understands exactly where Elliott is coming from.

“It means a lot to a lot of people, and (head) coach (Dabo) Swinney talks about it all the time,” he said. “You can go 10-1 and have a great year, but if you lose to these guys, you’re going to hear about it from our fans, from theirs and from people in the state.”

It’s been a while since Clemson has had to hear about it.

The Tigers (8-3) will take a four-game winning streak into the latest rendition Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium, but Clemson’s streak in the series is even longer. Not since 2013 has Clemson experienced a loss to its in-state rival.

Of course, the Tigers’ bid for a seventh straight win over Carolina (6-5) is coming a year later than expected after the game was called off last year amid the coronavirus pandemic. The SEC (of which Carolina is a member) decided to play conference-only schedules last season, breaking a streak of 111 consecutive years of the Clemson-Carolina game being played.

“The alliance — one side or the other — the loyalty, the hate, all of that is very real,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “We certainly missed it (last season). It’s as intense and emotional and means as much as any rivalry in college football. It’s a big deal.”

It also means Carolina will be hosting the game for the second time in as many meetings. But if the Tigers can get out of Columbia with yet another win Saturday, their seven-game winning streak in the series would match their longest ever.

The only other time Clemson has won that many consecutive games over Carolina? You have to go all the way back to the FDR administration when the Tigers won every matchup from 1934 to 1940.

With the nation’s No. 8 scoring defense and an offense coming off its best performance of the season against Wake Forest, Clemson enter Saturday’s matchup winners of six of its last seven games overall. But South Carolina has a some momentum, too, in Shane Beamer’s first season at the helm.

Even with their third-string quarterback, Jason Brown, at the offensive controls, the Gamecocks are bowl-eligible having won two of their last three games over Florida and Auburn. Both of those wins came at home.

“They’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “They’re playing physical, and they’re playing with a ton of effort. And I think that’s a reflection of what Shane has been able to do in a short time.”

The Tigers are a two-touchdown favorite in this year’s matchup, but Clemson isn’t expecting anything easy to come against the Gamecocks, particularly at a stadium that’s sure to be accompanied by a raucous atmosphere under the lights. Carolina is 5-1 at home this season and has yet allow more than 17 points in its own stadium.

“Going down to Williams-Brice at 7:30 at night, they’re not going to be too kind to us,” Elliott said.

An entire state will be watching to see what happens.

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