Ours was the only state with two teams in the top 10 of The Associated Press' college football poll entering the 2013 season - No. 6 South Carolina and No. 8 Clemson.

But how you finish a race always beats how you started it. And if now-No. 12 Clemson beats No. 7 Ohio State tonight in the Orange Bowl in Miami, the Palmetto State will likely have two teams in the final AP poll's top 10. (The state of Alabama's already bound to do that with Alabama and Auburn.)

The South Carolina Gamecocks, No. 9 going into Wednesday's Capitol One Bowl, clinched a higher closing ranking with a 34-24 victory over No. 19 Wisconsin. USC might even climb into the final top five.

Certainly Gamecock coach Steve Spurrier rated his team's fans highly during Wednesday's trophy presentation in Orlando, telling them: "Thanks to all you Gamecocks for coming down here. You were the difference - big difference."

He added: "Hey, these two Capital One bowls in a row are pretty nice, but that state championship ain't bad, either."

The garnet-clad faithful roared their approval of that parting-shot reference to USC's 31-17 victory over Clemson in the regular-season finale.

Yet Clemson folks should take that jab from the "Old Ball Coach" as a compliment on the basis of that outcome still being worthy of USC pride - even after five straight Gamecock triumphs over the Tigers.

As for those USC fans who plan to pull for the Buckeyes tonight, they should keep in mind that if Clemson wins, Gamecock bragging rights would include boasting about beating the Orange Bowl champion.

And to borrow from Coach Spurrier, that ain't, er, wouldn't be bad, either.