In response to getting double-digit pistol-whipped by the Gamecocks for the fifth year in a row, many Clemson fans are hoping their Orange Bowl bid will help soothe the annual hiney-burn they are now used to receiving from Carolina. And you bet I can remember many times back when we used to lose to them all the time doing something similar. I would just want to find anything at all to avoid the reality of losing to them year after year.
Enter the press conference for this year’s Citrus/Capital One Bowl in Orlando. Steve Spurrier and Connor Shaw were there taking questions about the matchup with Wisconsin and Shaw was asked if he was upset that Carolina had beaten teams in two of the BCS games (Central Florida and the Klimpletons) but weren’t going themselves? Shaw’s response was just perfect and so true. He said he would rather be in the Gamecocks situation: a team that had beaten 2 BCS teams while not playing in one of those bowls…instead of the reverse. He’s right. My Clemson friends may stick their heads in the sand and pretend he’s wrong but deep down, below the garnet burn, they know they would gladly trade in that Orange Bowl bid for a win over us.
But aside from my friends of Orange ilk, you may wonder why I’m so happy with “only” getting another Citrus Bowl bid. Well, there are several reasons. First, I felt like we gave up the right to expect more when we vomited all over the field in Knoxville. Second, considering we only have 5 seniors on the roster and only 8 names are leaving Columbia period this season, 10-2 and ranked #8 is fine with me. Finally, there was that old win #5 in a row (31-17 over the Trademarked Tigers in case you forgot). So yep, count the old Cockabooster as being quite content with things. Meanwhile, as our rivals head to Miami in the disappointment/denial bowl, they will keep on pretending they don’t care about the rivalry anymore. And while they are doing that, Shaw’s comment will be eating away at their insides the whole time. Can you imagine how happy they are he is graduating?
Now in terms of the matchups themselves, the Tiggers appear to have fallen rear end-backwards into another fortunate game similar to their Peach Bowl wins over LSU and Tennessee. Ohio State, like the Bayou Bengals and UT, has absolutely no incentive or interest in this game. Think of how Alabama felt about playing Utah a few years back in the Sugar. And to their credit, Clemson does seem to take advantage of opponent’s disinterest. They likely will again. After all, as Mark May points out, Clemson wilts when a physical team hits them in the mouth, but Ohio State ain’t that kind of squad.
And of course the opposite is true for the Gamecocks. We will be facing a hungry team with tons of incentive and much to prove. Wisconsin is well-coached, has a salty defense and a strong running game. At first glance, I think of the Iowa team we faced in the Outback Bowl a few years back. We will have to play at a high level for 60 minutes against a focused opponent to land another bowl win. So yes, it isn’t what we hoped for this year, and the bowls may not go our way. But just like my main man Connor Shaw was saying, we’d still rather have #5 in a row. And so would the Tigers!
It’s a great time to be a Gamecock!