WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Spinning positively off Deacon Boulevard, out of their hectic Atlantic Coast Conference schedule and into heavy rivalry week traffic, the Clemson Tigers had to smile Saturday.
A golf clap, please, for the 30-10 win over woeful Wake Forest.
Now it's time to play the Eerily Similar card.
"Kind of the flipside of the way it was last year," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said after leading the Tigers to bowl eligibility.
Yes, next week is 2009 all over again in reverse, and vice versa.
Just as Clemson did last November, South Carolina next week will have to play an emotional bragging rights game on the road one week before playing in a conference title game for the first time in school history.
"It really shouldn't matter what you have next," Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers said. "You should treat each game of the season like it's a championship game."
Easier said than done.
Focus is at least a little divided, and maybe more for South Carolina this year with the Cameron Newton mess a 24/7 matter.
Clemson lost at South Carolina, 34-17.
Then it lost to Georgia Tech in the ACC championship game, 39-34.
"It was very hard last year and we didn't do a very good job with it," Bowers said. "We went down there (to Columbia), and we just didn't play very hard."
Bowers, a half-sack shy of the Clemson single-season record, likely will play hard next Saturday at Death Valley. The 6-4, 275-pound junior was asked what he would text South
Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia if he had to text something.
Bowers quickly answered: "I'm coming for you."
Troubling bits of recent history are rolling toward Columbia, too.
'It was tough'
Other flipside similarities to the 2009 Clemson-South Carolina game:
--Like the Tigers in Tampa, South Carolina against Auburn at the Georgia Dome will face a foe it lost to in a thrillingly close road game early in the season.
--Again this Thanksgiving Week, the nationally ranked 8-3 team goes on the road to face the unranked 6-5 team.
--The critical division wins for both teams came against teams from Florida (though Clemson technically clinched with a victory over Virginia).
"It was tough. Any time you play versus South Carolina is tough," Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker said. "It was hard not to overlook them but we put everything we had into that game. It just didn't come out the way we wanted it to."
So, Dabo, any friendly advice for a team, say, facing a Palmetto State rivalry game one week before an unprecedented appearance in a conference championship game?
"Can't worry about that championship game," Swinney said. "Just get ready to play this game. I mean, it's all about the game you're playing. It's just the way it is: You have to win each week.
"We put everything we had into trying to win that game (at South Carolina). We had great momentum and then a turnover-fest and we lost all that momentum. We're just hoping to play a better game this year than we did last year."
A quarterback/baseball player with bragging rights/championship game doubleheader experience has some solid perspective.
"Obviously, they know they have another game after us," Parker said of the Gamecocks, "but I don't think they're going to overlook us. I think we're going to get their best shot."
And vice versa.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at email@example.com or 937-5593.
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