Last season, Clemson was 7-1 and ranked No. 10 in the country before imploding and finishing 8-5 and falling out of the top 25. This season, South Carolina was 6-1 and ranked sixth in the country. Four consecutive loses later and the Gamecocks are close to going from No. 6 to 6-6.
The question is, will South Carolina mail it in much like the Tigers did last year, or will they continue to fight to try to ensure itself a bowl trip?
"Winning breeds more winning and unfortunately losing can do the same thing," Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said. "You have to shake it off. You have to do what you can to learn from your losses and try to move on. We have tried our best to do that and we'll see what happens here Saturday night."
Many players for Clemson this year point to the seniors last season as not having the fire and desire inside to stop the skid. There are some key fourth-year players for the Gamecocks and Spurrier is counting on them not having a case of senioritis.
"The way we've performed lately, our big concern is getting guys to play at a high level and play smarter," he said. "Hopefully we will be smarter and give ourselves a chance to win the game, if we're capable."
The one thing coaches abhor is when their players don't give it their all. Clemson coach Tommy Bowden has said he's been as pleased as humanly possible with the way his Tigers have come out fighting in every game.
He said there hasn't been a single let down.
The same can't necessarily be said for South Carolina.
"As a team we don't perform at a real high, intense level," Spurrier said. "All you have to do is look at how guys cover kickoffs. I watch other teams and see about nine guys busting their tales down there. All you have to do is watch their arms. If their arms are moving as fast as they can, then you know they're hustling down there and busting their tales to cover kickoffs. I wish I could say we have nine that do that, but we don't."
Oddly enough, as bad as it seems this year for the Gamecocks, it's not very different from last season for them. Maybe it's the way South Carolina is losing or maybe it's the fact that it has lost four straight.
But the records from last year at this time and this year are exactly the same.
"We were 6-5 last year, did y'all know that, going into this game?" Spurrier said. "You would think we were 10-0 (last year) and now we're 0-10 the way the attitude is. We actually had the same record."
Like Bowden, Spurrier keeps preaching patience. Bowden said his two good recruiting classes the last couple of seasons would eventually help the Tigers contend for an ACC title.
The Gamecocks had a very good recruiting class last year and expect the same type of success Clemson is in line for next season.
"I hate to get ahead of ourselves, but at the same time you have to mention the future every time we have a little slump like we're in now," Spurrier said. "Our big recruiting class was last year. We certainly believe they can develop into good players. They're not ready yet, but we believe they will develop.
"For us to fight for the SEC, it's going to be difficult with Georgia, Florida and Tennessee in our division, but some years if we win the close games and it breaks right, hopefully we'll be strong enough to win the SEC. That is our goal, to win the SEC. We weren't strong enough this year. We thought maybe we were when the ball was bouncing our way against Georgia and had good wins against Kentucky and Mississippi State, but we haven't performed well since then.
"The head coach is responsible for everything. I know that. They head coach everywhere knows that. Our job is to make whatever changes we can and try to do the best we can to give our team a chance to be successful."
And for the Old Ball Coach, it starts Saturday against Clemson after having a week off to prepare.
"Hopefully our team will be ready to play the best we can this year and give Clemson a good game," Spurrier said. "We all know where they are and where we are. They had a heartbreaker last week, and two weeks ago we got thumped a lot like the last two games. We're challenging our players to lay it on the line, play with a lot of effort and see if we can be more competitive Saturday night."
Gamecocks Struggling Down the Stretch
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