COLUMBIA — South Carolina is wearing all-black uniforms for its Saturday rivalry clash with Clemson, which is appropriate.
What else would one wear to a funeral?
The Gamecocks likely will wind up a disastrous 4-8 season by losing to the No. 3 Tigers, and by losing badly. They could dress Connor Shaw, Jadeveon Clowney and give Steve Spurrier a three-hour coaching contract and it still wouldn’t matter.
Clemson is better, miles better, at every position but two special-teamers. The Tigers, while they most likely aren’t going to move from that No. 3 spot in the playoff rankings no matter what they do (other than a loss), know they have to win this game, know they’re more than capable of winning this game — and know blowing out an archrival certainly can’t hurt, in the eyes of the committee nor their fans.
Miracles can happen, mojo from a uniform or early big play or an outstanding pregame speech can play a part. But they won’t Saturday.
In the lottery-ticket chance, though …
Four keys for the Gamecocks to beat Clemson:
All day, baby
USC can’t intimidate Clemson with its stadium (expected to be half-orange, if not 75 percent) or its talent (the best pieces of which are probably going to be on the bench). What it has to do is find some other way to do so once the clock starts.
Remember 2011? The Gamecocks kicked a field goal on their first drive, then faced Tajh Boyd and his Clemson offense. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore played nose-to-nose with his receiver on the line, then bee-lined for Boyd as he dropped back.
He nailed Boyd and the ball fluttered incomplete. Lot of football to be played, but that sent the message that Boyd better find that ground comfortable, because he was going to be there, a lot.
Think D.J. Swearinger intercepting a pass meant for a Clemson receiver in warm-ups in 2012, then blasting Andre Ellington with a hit that Dick Butkus would have called savage. Fifteen-yard penalty (after Swearinger woofed at Ellington), but game over.
Make them think they’ve under-estimated you, and the odds rise.
The Gamecocks unveiled their black “throwback” jerseys this year, that when paired with a garnet helmet and white pants, reminded folks of the “Black Magic” days. That era was fully intact in 1987, when the Gamecocks beat Clemson 20-7 in Williams-Brice Stadium.
The game was great, Brad Edwards was greater and the chant was greatest. After Edwards intercepted Clemson’s Rodney Williams and housed it for the clinching score, the stadium erupted with “Raahhhhd … neee ….. Raaahhhd … neee … ”
He’s never forgotten it. And with the Gamecocks wearing those same jerseys (but not the other parts), perhaps USC can get its hands on a Trevor Lawrence mistake, then let the Williams-Brice huckleberries do their thing.
Favorite part of this that didn't make it into the story:— David Cloninger (@DCPandC) November 29, 2019
Rodney Williams answered the phone without saying hello. All he said was, "Are you sure you don't want to talk about 1987?"
David Treadwell also made sure to sneak in a "Go Tigers!" before he said good-bye. https://t.co/CACKE5cUlf
“Trevvv … ahhhh …. Trevvv … ahhh … ”
It can’t hurt.
It’s been a miserable year. Yet, the Gamecocks beat Georgia. They beat then-No. 3 Georgia in Athens!
How they did it continues to befuddle the masses. They didn’t play perfect, their quarterback got hurt, they nearly blew it with less than a minute to go and they missed their first chance to win it with a walk-off field goal.
But they did. How they did it, any talks, game plans or just plain hope that went into it need to get repeated Saturday.
What could be
It’s typical USC football that one of its most memorable seasons ended 5-6. That was in 1992, when an 0-5 start and a players’ meeting that voted for coach Sparky Woods to resign turned into one of the best stretches of football the Gamecocks have ever played.
The similarities are striking. All they can do this year is play spoiler, as they did then (Clemson finished 5-6 after USC’s 24-13 win, denying the Tigers a bowl game. This year, Clemson’s stakes are quite higher). They again have a freshman quarterback (Steve Taneyhill then, Ryan Hilinski now).
And the biggest — the Gamecocks somehow pull this off, and it’s a 5-7 unforgettable year, one where a bad team scored wins over its two biggest rivals and gave their embattled coach a jolt of confidence. Nothing breeds that like going through nine months of offseason with every person in town, and at least half the people in the state, patting your back, shaking your hand and smiling at how you shut up those orange folks.
The only difference from the fabled ’92 season would be that the long-haired, big-armed quarterback would be on the loser’s sideline.
Clemson 56, South Carolina 10