This season has not lived up to the lofty standards of No. 24 Clemson, but coach Dabo Swinney and his Tigers have a chance to settle a score when they visit South Carolina on Saturday night in Columbia, S.C.
Clemson (7-4) resides in seventh place with a 4-4 record in Atlantic Coast Conference play. The four-loss season is the Tigers’ first since 2011.
Within that span are a pair of national titles in 2016 and 2018, both over Alabama. The Tigers are 28-10 across the past three seasons.
However, they have had good luck in the state capital against their Palmetto Bowl rival.
Swinney’s team has won four straight on the road there, but South Carolina is 5-1 at home this season.
“Obviously it’s one of the best atmospheres in college football,” Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik said. “They’ve got great fans. Excited to get down there. We love playing on the road, so it’s going to be a fun game, for sure, and a lot of energy and super cool.”
In a season in which the Tigers did not even approach making the ACC Championship game, state bragging rights mean more than ever.
A Birmingham (Ala.) native who played for the Crimson Tide, Swinney understands the rivalry’s intensity.
“What makes it unique is the same thing that makes Alabama-Auburn unique and that is, there’s no pro sports in this state,” Swinney said. “You’re not going to be able to live in (South Carolina) long without going, ‘OK, what’s going on around here? These people are crazy.’”
Former President Donald Trump will attend the game, but Swinney was non-committal in his feelings about the appearance.
“I don’t care who comes to the game,” Swinney said during his Tuesday press conference. “I just care about who’s playing in the game. Unless (Gamecocks coach Shane Beamer) is going to put him in and throw him a halfback pass or something.”
South Carolina (5-6) won 31-30 last year in Clemson, but the Tigers were triumphant in seven straight meetings before that and lead the all-time series 72-43-4.
Beamer’s Gamecocks are coming off their best win of the season, a 17-14 rally at home over Kentucky.
The Wildcats (6-5) were 5-0 and ranked No. 20 before a loss at top-ranked Georgia sent their campaign into a tailspin.
Last Saturday, Spencer Rattler went 19-for-27 for 207 yards and two scores. Xavier Legette had six catches for 94 yards and both touchdowns.
That connection was critical down the stretch as the duo kept a drive alive with a third-and-15 completion. Legette’s second TD catch was the game-winner — a 17-yarder with 7:44 remaining and his team trailing 14-10.
Now it’s time for Saturday’s game with bowl eligibility on the line.
“It’s been an emotional year. It’s been a tough year in a lot of ways,” Beamer said. “We’ve had three good Saturdays in a row and then it’s rivalry week. … There’s the bowl game part of it.”
Beamer also said his team’s good health included star receiver Antwane “Juice” Wells, who practiced last week and could play Saturday. He has been sidelined since Week 3 of the season due to a lower-body injury.
–Field Level Media