It was arguably the best college football season in Palmetto State history, even without an ESPY-worthy performance from Jadeveon Clowney, even if you didn’t eat a Sammy Watkins Rueben Sandwich or Spurrier Chicken Salad from the Daniel Island Grille at your favorite tailgate party.
South Carolina and Clemson finished together in the top 10 for the first time.
The No. 4 Gamecocks had their highest final ranking.
The No. 8 Tigers won the Orange Bowl; the Gamecocks won the Capital One Bowl.
Clemson hosted “GameDay.” Twice in seven weeks.
Coastal Carolina, S.C. State and Furman made the FCS playoffs.
Charleston Southern won a school-record 10 games.
Here’s the best of the 2013 season:
Coach of the Year: Jamey Chadwell, Charleston Southern.
Best Single-Game Performance: Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins bowed out with 16 catches for 227 yards and two touchdowns against Ohio State in the Orange Bowl.
Comeback of the Decade: Down 17-0 with less than 13 minutes left at Missouri, Connor Shaw — who came off the bench in the third quarter — rallied South Carolina to a 27-24 double-overtime victory at Missouri.
Yummiest Menu Options: The Daniel Island Grille opened the season offering the Clowney Turkey Avocado Wrap and Tajh Boyd Chicken Quesadilla.
Best Rumor: Right before the Clemson-Florida State game, and with Texas angling for Nick Saban, some believed Dabo Swinney was one “GameDay” victory away from becoming a leading candidate to jump to his alma mater.
Best Rumor Reaction: “I’m a Gamecock fan and I sure hope Dabo doesn’t leave,” a caller said on Columbia’s 107.5 “The Game” afternoon radio show. “I’m afraid they’d make Chad Morris the head coach.”
Tackle of the Year: South Carolina’s Sharrod Golightly stopped Missouri running back Henry Josey for a 4-yard loss to force a punt with 3:08 left in regulation and give the Gamecocks one more chance in the “other” Columbia.
Bill Murray and chicken soup
Best “GameDay” Guest Picker of All-Time: Bill Murray wore a tie-dyed teal Piggly Wiggly shirt at the Florida State-Clemson game while wrestling ESPN’s Lee Corso to the ground and applying professional wrestling moves.
Play of the Year: Bruce Ellington’s touchdown catch on fourth-and-goal from the 15 with South Carolina behind in the first overtime at Missouri.
Underrated Upset: The Citadel’s 28-26 home victory over Samford, a Southern Conference co-champion.
Best Special Teams Player: Furman’s Ray Early made 20 of 25 field goals and was second in the Southern Conference in punting (43.5-yard average).
Military Appreciation Day Tribute Award: Bronze Star winner Daniel Rodriguez scored his first college touchdown for Clemson in a Nov. 23 win over The Citadel.
Best Day for a Man Cave Power Outage: On Oct. 19, the Gamecocks gagged at Tennessee — a 23-21 loss perhaps costing a shot at the national championship game — and Clemson was clobbered, 51-14, by eventual national champ Florida State.
Best Quarterback, FBS level: Impossible to separate Boyd and Shaw. Boyd again got the best of the common opponent matchup (this time with Georgia), Shaw again won the rivalry game. Both guys were All-American ambassadors.
Best Quarterback, FCS level: Ben DuPree, The Citadel.
Career Achievement Award, Offense: S.C. State’s Tyler McDonald (Stratford High School) became the school’s career reception leader.
Career Achievement Award, Defense: Wofford linebacker Mike McCrimon started all 49 games of his college career and was named the Terriers’ team MVP.
Defensive Player of the Year: Clemson end Vic Beasley had 13 sacks and 23 tackles for loss.
Stat Line of the Year: 24 touchdown passes, one interception for the Gamecocks’ Connor Shaw, one of the best ratios in NCAA history.
Best Home Win: CSU 31, Coastal Carolina 26 on Nov. 8.
Best Road Win: Coastal Carolina’s 42-35 playoff victory at Montana with temperatures just below zero, helped with a hearty halftime supply of chicken soup arranged by head coach Joe Moglia.
The HBC vs. Dabo
Best Motivational Tactic: CSU’s Jamey Chadwell had an ice cream truck deliver treats to his players at practice the week of the Coastal Carolina game.
“It was great,” Chadwell said. “Some of our fat linemen ran as fast as I’ve ever seen them run.”
Best Player Quote: South Carolina cornerback Victor Hampton, before the Clemson game: “I always feel like it’s a problem if your coach wants to win the game more than your players.”
Best Coach Quote: Steve Spurrier, just after South Carolina’s Capital One Bowl win over Wisconsin: “Two Capital One Bowls in a row are pretty nice, but that state championship ain’t bad either.”
Best Comeback Quote: Dabo Swinney just after Clemson’s Orange Bowl win over Ohio State: “We’re the first team from South Carolina to ever win a BCS bowl game.”
And spring practice is just around the corner.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff
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