Uneasy alliance Fans of USC, Clemson should support each other

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, left, and South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

Summer college football fever is almost here, best served with sweet tea, watermelon and chatter about the new four-team playoff.

It's all about beach weather and South Carolina fans hoping the Gamecocks win every game while also hoping Clemson wins every game but one.

And vice versa.

Of course, smart Clemson supporters have always pulled for South Carolina (and vice versa), realizing that a Braggin' Rights victory doesn't mean as much if the arch-rival is 0-10 or weaker than a flag football team made up of Swiss pet sitters.

Analytic Gamecock fans, while on some level pondering the joy of a Tiger train wreck, realize a Clemson loss to Wake Forest last season - or even another Orange Bowl embarrassment - would have computed to South Carolina finishing somewhere worse than No. 4 in the final Associated Press poll.

Rivals in the championship mix need each other to win as often as possible before The Rivalry Game, more in 2014 with the debut of a four-team playoff.

If you're not familiar with wishing for South Carolina AND Clemson wins over the first 11 games of the season, start warming up to the new buzzphrase of college football: schedule strength. It's likely to be the standard measure of things not settled head-to-head.

"It's your win-loss record. Did you win a championship? It's strength of schedule, it's common opponents," Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez, one of the 13 members of the College Football Playoff committee, told ESPN.com last week. "Those are things that will be considered."

The better your rival, the better your strength of schedule.

Which means hoping an arch-nemesis stumbles vs. Southeast State Tech, while hilarious during the "SportsCenter" highlights, might be costly upon committee review.

Gamecocks and Tigers wanting the best for each other isn't such a new concept.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney excitedly discussed the BCS implications that went into last November's game in Columbia.

"There's not many (rivalries) out there that are going to bring that to the table," Swinney said. "I think everybody will be tuned in to see Clemson-South Carolina for sure."

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier agreed.

"It's sort of neat that we've got two teams in the top 10 that started the season there and are still there after 11 games," Spurrier said. "So I know our state is proud of the two football schools we've got in the state of South Carolina."

The Gamecocks won the first top 10 matchup in series history, 31-17, a game that was close most of the night.

Both teams finished 11-2.

Iron sharpens iron, or not.

Evidence of how a Palmetto State rivalry with postseason implications impacts schedule strength is currently on display with the NCAA's official baseball Ratings Percentage Index.

The Gamecocks last week swept Missouri in an SEC series and trounced Wofford, 15-1. But they dropped from No. 11 to No. 12 in the RPI, surely in part because that three-game sweep of Clemson doesn't look so impressive anymore.

In early March, Clemson was ranked No. 11.

In mid-May, the Tigers are No. 46 in the RPI coming off an ACC series loss at Notre Dame.

It's not too late for Clemson to help South Carolina gain a top eight national seed for the NCAA tournament. Or for Gamecock fans to form an "alliance" of support that helps the Tigers win the last two games of an ACC home series against Boston College that might be critical for both programs.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff