SUNSET, S.C. - It's not a secret, and that's no exception inside the walls of the WestZone football complex.
"We're 0-5. It's a straight-up message. There ain't no beating around it," Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said Tuesday, his voice lowered and traced with unrest. "They've beat us five years in a row. It's got to stop. Simple."
They, of course, are the South Carolina Gamecocks.
While Clemson and South Carolina each have much to crow about when it comes to their football programs - the Tigers' Orange Bowl victory, the Gamecocks' No. 4 ranking to end 2013 - that final regular-season game in late November carries greater burden than all the rest, much as the one-game-at-a-time crowd would otherwise mumble.
It's common for college weight rooms to showcase a countdown clock to the next game, and both in-state programs start 2014 with a big one: South Carolina hosting Texas A&M and Clemson visiting Georgia.
However, Clemson and South Carolina each have brandished a countdown clock to playing each other on Nov. 29; an unorthodox move spicing up a cliché-driven culture.
At Clemson, the clocks have been up since January, some accompanied by a photo of a Clemson helmet with South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw's signature and the words "This is our state! 5" on the side.
There's also a large printed sign, pronouncing simply: 0-5. The Tigers' record against the Gamecocks dating to Thanksgiving weekend in 2009.
"Football in the state of South Carolina is as good as it's ever been in my memory of coaching 40 years," Clemson associate head coach Dan Brooks said.
"That's just another added thing to (our players), to kind of rub the sand in their craw every time they see that."
Those clocks, photos and signs are posted in each of the Tigers' individual positional meeting rooms.
"They're gonna see it every day," Morris said. "Every day, it's rubbed in their face, and we're going to make a point, every day. We're going to talk about it. They're going to see it, every day."
About six weeks after beating Ohio State in the Orange Bowl, the Tigers' coaches took a friendly visit with the Buckeyes' staff in Columbus. Inside the football complex there's a countdown clock specifically for "The Game" against Michigan, which also serves as the annual regular season finale.
Morris was the first to believe in borrowing the gesture. He asked defensive coordinator Brent Venables what he thought.
"That's something I've wanted to do," Morris said. "I got with Brent, said hey, you want in on it, because it's going in every offensive room? He goes, 'Heck yeah.' So we got it in every room."
In the case of the Scott family, which has logged 20 years coaching or playing in the rivalry (four at South Carolina, 16 at Clemson), the father-son duo of Brad and Jeff are a collective 10-10 in the matchup.
And, of course, 0-5 the past five years.
"It's only a matter of time before we get that turned around," said Jeff Scott, the Tigers' wide receivers coach. "But it's definitely something that's always on everybody's mind when they hit the WestZone and the practice field as the season goes."
Added running backs coach Tony Elliott, a Clemson wide receiver from 2000-03: "It's never just another game on the schedule."
Being that I'm a Clemson Tiger, trust me, we don't like it. We're going to change it - but they've done an unbelievable job with their program, of changing their whole culture down there.
"Now it's our turn to re-establish where we feel like we belong. We've got to put in the work to earn that opportunity to change that."
Morris was asked if the players have responded positively to the clocks, answering simply, "Well, we'll find out in about 137 days."
Not about. Exactly. Tuesday marked 137 days away from the rematch. Morris knows. And he can't wait for the chance to end the streak.
"You get tired of hearing it," Morris said, still slightly seething. "At some point, you've got to do something about it."
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