Clemson - Carolina: Inside Slant

South Carolina
Will he stay or will he go?

"I see Secretary of State's open," South Carolina coach Lou Holtz joked with the media on Monday.

Hours later, President Bush selected Condoleezza Rice as Colin Powell's replacement for secretary of state, so Holtz is no longer a candidate for that job.

But what about his current job as the Gamecocks' coach? One minute he acts like he's ready to retire, especially when he says things like, "whoever is the coach next year," or talks about how good it would be for South Carolina if the school hired Steve Spurrier.

Then the next minute, he acts like he's ready for more, with responses such as "Don't bury me yet," and "There's no opening at South Carolina."

Or is there? Has Holtz already made up his mind? Does he know something the rest of us don't?

"It's his decision and whatever happens, happens. We just have to go along with it," defensive end George Gause said.

In the meantime, Holtz has more important issues to face. With his team already bowl eligible for the first time since 2001, Holtz and the Gamecocks (6-4, 4-4 SEC) are focused on beating in-state rival Clemson and earning some redemption after last year's 63-17 loss to the Tigers.

"I don't want to go down that road because there's only one thing on my mind right now and only one thing important in this world right now and that's Clemson, for our seniors and our football team," Holtz said. "And I don't want to get into anything else."

With his team coming off what has to be one of the most disappointing losses of this season, if not of recent years, Clemson coach Tommy Bowden hopes his Tigers (5-5, 4-4 ACC) recover more quickly than they did earlier this season when they dropped a tough game to Georgia Tech.

The loss to the Yellow Jackets became the first of four setbacks in a row, a streak that finally was ended with a 35-6 victory over a mediocre Utah State team. The Tigers then won four in a row, capping the streak with an upset at Miami.

But with a bowl-eligible sixth victory within their grasp, they fizzled last week at Duke, losing on a field goal as time ran out.

"There is going to be some emotional baggage," Bowden said of the effect on his Tigers, who are host to South Carolina in Saturday's finale.

Compounding the problem for the Tigers is that even if they do get a sixth victory, they could still be left out of the bowl picture. Nine of the 11 ACC teams retain mathematical hopes of becoming bowl eligible heading into the last couple of weeks of the regular season.

Only five, however, have already qualified for one of the six berths that go to ACC teams, and two of the remaining four are two wins short. Maryland and Wake Forest both have four victories, and one will have at least six losses because they play each other Nov. 27.

The nuances are lost on Bowden, however, as he looks at South Carolina.

"We just want to win the game," he said. "Nothing has come easy for us this year. It has been a year we have had to fight for everything we have gotten. With a loss this week it has been magnified." Top Stories