MMQB: Annual Grudge Match Returns

There have been occasions in recent years in which South Carolina entered the annual rivalry game with Clemson needing a win to gain bowl eligibility. More often than not, the Gamecocks came up empty.

Imagine, then, the delight USC players, coaches and fans must be feeling this week.

The tables are turned. Already bowl eligible, the Gamecocks can put a final, miserable touch on Clemson's football season Saturday afternoon. A USC win means the Tigers will be home for the holidays, and would be one last insult to a Clemson fan base which has been plenty offended for much of this season.

High hopes? Clemson had 'em when 2008 began.

Ranked No. 9 in the nation, a prohibitive favorite to win the ACC and go to a BCS bowl for the first time, the Tigers instead stumbled out of the starting blocks. More accurately, they were lined up against the Georgia Dome wall and shot by Alabama.

A semi-recovery against inferior opponents followed, but then came losses to Maryland and Wake Forest. Out went Tommy Bowden. In came Dabo Swinney.

With Swinney has come a bit of light at the end of the tunnel (not to mention some catchy t-shirt slogans). The fan base has rallied around the coach and team. The friction in the locker room apparently has healed.

And now Clemson finds itself one win away from doing what seemed impossible just a month ago.

Standing in the way?

Those hated Gamecocks, sitting pretty after a week off. Heading into Death Valley at Noon (again) Saturday, the same place they beat the Tigers just two years ago.

And despite coming off a 56-6 loss to Florida last time out, USC will be confident and cocky (pun intended). They'll be salivating at the chance to do to Clemson what the Tigers have made a habit of doing to them.

In Columbia, it would be Mardi Gras and New Year's Eve rolled into one.

In Clemson, it would be an unspeakable end to a dreadful year.

A season that began with so much promise would end in embarrassment. At the hands of the one team, the one school, Clemson players and fans hate the most.

And that's why the Tigers should be spitting rage Saturday afternoon.

Women might want to hide their eyes. The faint of heart should proceed with caution. Parental discretion is advised.

Figuratively speaking, this one could end up being a bloodbath.

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