Almost everything went right for Steve Spurrier’s already well-equipped South Carolina football teams from 2009 through 2013 during their five-game win streak over Clemson.
That included unforced errors.
“When we play Clemson,” Spurrier noted, “they don’t seem to play very well.”
Now it’s Clemson with the five-game victory streak, and the No. 3 Tigers (11-0) are favored by 24½ points going into a Saturday matchup with South Carolina (4-7) at Williams-Brice Stadium. The final point spread might surpass the series record of 26 set in 2016 and equaled last November.
Head coach Will Muschamp initiated the rallying cry in College Station, Texas, immediately after South Carolina’s last game, a 30-6 loss to Texas A&M on Nov. 16.
“Like Coach Muschamp said, ‘We can right a lot of wrongs by beating Clemson,’” cornerback Jaycee Horn repeated. “That’s a top-four opponent and a big rival of South Carolina. So we’ve got to go back to the drawing board and give it our all one last time.”
The Gamecocks’ best hope isn’t found within the history of a series short on major surprises. There is something better: a 20-17 double-overtime win at Georgia on Oct. 12.
South Carolina’s win as a 21-point underdog stands as the most influential upset of the 2019 college football season.
Problem: Bryan Edwards, the Gamecocks’ senior wide receiver and best player on offense, is doubtful for Saturday; he caught six passes for 78 yards and scored South Carolina’s only touchdown on offense in Athens.
There isn’t much likelihood that a consistent Clemson team determined to successfully defend its national championship will get intimidated by the Williams-Brice scene.
“I just love it,” Clemson senior guard Gage Cervenka said following Clemson’s 52-3 win over Wake Forest on Nov. 16. “I really do. I just love going to that place because I know they hate us. And the feeling is mutual. It really is; I’ll straight up say it.”
If the Gamecocks and their fans need inspiration from upsets in the series, these are the top five (with South Carolina prevailing in three):
Score: Clemson 28, South Carolina 9
Story: Clemson entered Death Valley at 2-6-2; South Carolina was 6-4. Tigers head coach Red Parker thought Jim Carlen and the Gamecocks ran the score up in South Carolina’s 56-20 victory in 1975 and vowed revenge. Clemson’s Rex Varn, grandson of former South Carolina head coach Rex Enright, intercepted two passes.
Score: South Carolina 26, Clemson 6
Story: The unranked Gamecocks stunned No. 10 Clemson on Big Thursday, the annual State Fair celebration in Columbia, host site of the rivalry until the first game at Clemson in 1960. Clemson showed up 4-0, South Carolina 2-2. Frank Howard’s Tigers wound up 8-3 and No. 12 with a close Sugar Bowl loss (7-0) to No. 1 LSU and 1959 Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon. South Carolina didn’t get a bowl bid but finished 7-3 and No. 15, the highest final ranking in school history until 1984.
Score: Clemson 27, South Carolina 6
Story: Dubbed “The Willie Underwood Game” for the Clemson defensive back who intercepted a pair of Gary Harper passes for returns of 64 and 37 yards (for a touchdown). Also “The Orange Pants Game” after head coach Danny Ford had the Tigers warm up in white pants before busting out the “orange britches” for the first time in program history. In a poll of 12 Charleston newspaper staffers, only one picked Clemson.
Score: South Carolina 34, Clemson 31
Story: A Brad Scott-led Gamecocks became the first unranked team in the series to win against a ranked home team (this later happened in Clemson’s 2005 win and South Carolina’s 2006 win). Future NFL running backs Duce Staley and Troy Hambrick scored two touchdowns apiece for the Gamecocks.
Score: South Carolina 27, Clemson 17
Story: This was part of a five-game rivalry win streak for Spurrier’s Gamecocks but the Tigers were favored by 4 points at Death Valley. Dylan Thompson, subbing at quarterback for injured Connor Shaw, threw three touchdown passes and Jadeveon Clowney had 4½ sacks.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.