The battle for Palmetto State supremacy will be at stake next Saturday, when the football teams from the University of South Carolina and Clemson University square off. The rivalry, once known as “Big Thursday,” will be renewed when the ninth-ranked Gamecocks (8-2) will travel to Death Valley for the showdown against the No. 11 Tigers (9-1). Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on either ESPN or ESPN2.
South Carolina – led by quarterback Connor Shaw and defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney – has won the past three games in the series, leaving Clemson – which has dynamic players like quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins – looking for its first win over it in-state foes since 2008. That was when then interim head coach Dabo Swinney guided the Tigers to a 31-14 victory that made them bowl eligible and went a long way into making Swinney the permanent head coach. Since then, the rivalry has belonged to South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier, who hasn’t been shy about making fun of Clemson at any and every opportunity since he was hired to lead the Gamecocks in 2005. Spurrier is 4-3 overall against the Tigers in his seven-plus years with South Carolina.
The animosity between the coaches is a reflection of the strong feelings between Clemson and South Carolina fans. Whether it’s inside Memorial Stadium, sports bars or even under the same roof, the rivalry runs deep. It has even turned ugly, with players brawling on the field in 2004, as emotions are high. This year should be no exception.
USC and Clemson have had impressive seasons and have been top-20 staples since the first game kicked off. But both squads have also suffered critical conference losses that will likely prevent either from winning either the Atlantic Coast Conference (Clemson) or Southeastern Conference (USC). That means that the head-to-head meeting could be the biggest game of the season for both sides, as it already is for fans every time the teams play. It could be the difference between a double-digit win season to remember or a campaign marred by a disappointing finish.
Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than a dozen years after graduating from Syracuse University.