Monday, November 21, 2011

Gamecocks and Moo U: Two Peas in a Pod?

South Carolina and Clemson head into this weekend’s rivalry game with a lot more in common than they want to admit.  Both teams have a conference loss that wasn’t really a surprise (Arkansas and GT) and one that was a surprise (Auburn and NC State); both teams have an early conference road win that ended up being the high point of their season (Georgia and Va. Tech); both teams are 9-2 and ranked in the top 20; both teams have had bigger dreams and expectations built and destroyed within the season; both teams go into Saturday with key injuries that have their fans nervous and on the edge. 

So yes, for the short-term issue of “this year’s game” you can see the similarities.  This comparison is also valid when you look past “who wins Saturday” as well.  The Gamecocks and Tigers have both risen to the top of their conference divisions, and based on a quick look at both teams’ depth charts, will return between 14-16 starters each for 2012. 

USC and Clemson fans should make peace with the reality that both programs are improving and will be good for a while.  If you’re breathing into a paper bag or sticking your fingers in your ears denying this fact, that’s a shame because the benefits to the state in having two top-level football programs far outweigh other considerations. 

If you don’t agree with me then please take a look at the state of baseball in South Carolina.  Run the statistics over the last decade and you will find that the Roosters and Tiggers are two of the nation’s elite programs.  This blog intends to pick on Jack Leggett mercilessly (and we will), and we would be fine with Emperor status for Ray Tanner.   Nevertheless, both teams have earned national status and respect and the rivalry has only gotten more focused and fun as a result.  Can you imagine that feeling only 1000 times more intense and energized?  That is where the rivalry is headed on the gridiron. 

Of course there is a premise among a lot of local media folks that the state of South Carolina isn’t “big enough” to handle two big, successful football programs due to our numbers.  Hogwash!  The key is keeping more and more of our high profile recruits from leaving the state and that is happening now.  The rampant “poaching” of our big-name kids by out of state schools used to be the rule, not the exception.  As USC and Clemson continue to grow that closing of the borders will continue as well. 

The BCS rankings for this week have Clemson at #17 and Carolina at #12.  The scene will be rowdy and wild on Saturday night in Columbia just like it was in 1987 when the two schools were #8 and #12 respectively.  Unlike that night a quarter of a century ago, you get the feeling that the rise of the Garnet and Orange is more “long-term” this time around.  Go Gamecocks!  

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