Confused about the "New Carolina"

CLEMSON - Which South Carolina team will Clemson see Saturday in Williams-Brice Stadium? The "new" or the "old?"

I'll be the first to admit, I've never thought of myself as the smartest man in the world.

Even though I did graduate from Clemson with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering, it took me well more than four years, and it took a monumental effort during my final three semesters to do it.

So perhaps it should be a foregone conclusion that I don't understand the latest rhetoric out of Columbia.

Have you heard it?

It's called the "New Carolina."

Simply put, I don't understand what it means.

Maybe in the same way a writer for a South Carolina web site probably doesn't understand nor care about the concept of "All In," I simply don't understand this "new" notion emerging out of Columbia.

Of course, normally, this is not something worthy of an article on a Clemson web site, but given the hostile nature of the rivalry this decade and the fact that it is Clemson-Carolina week, isn't this space as good as any to discuss it?

The average fan is probably tired of reading the 1,000th interview with the same player by this time in the season anyway. I mean, how many more times can we write about the maturation of Kyle Parker, the incredible season of DeAndre McDaniel or the up-and-down nature of Clemson's kickers and actually keep the reader interested? Honestly?

But back to my original point ... what is the "New Carolina?"

On the surface, the "new" looks much more like the "old" than anything else, doesn't it?

It almost has to when you consider how another fast start in Columbia has quickly evaporated at the first sign of fall. Consider ...

Last season the Gamecocks got off to a 5-2 start before crumbling down the stretch to finish 7-6.

It was a mind-numbing 50-point mid-November loss at Florida that put the wheels in motion for a collapse of monumental proportions, ending with three consecutive setbacks, including losses to the Tigers and eventually Iowa in the Outback Bowl.

Steve Spurrier is 1-3 against Clemson since taking over South Carolina's football program in 2005. (Getty Images)

And even in a year in which everything went wrong for Clemson, including a mid-year coaching change and losses to Maryland and Wake Forest, the Tigers still found a way to win in resounding fashion, 31-14.

The year before, of course, South Carolina was 6-1 and ranked in the top 10, before a five-game losing streak, including losses to Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida (sound familiar) during the weeks leading up to the Clemson game had Spurrier and company reeling. The Tigers, again, won for the ninth time in 10 trips to Williams-Brice Stadium to help keep the Gamecocks out of a bowl game.

Taking it a step further, South Carolina even had an open date the week before facing the Tigers in 2007, just as they do this year.

Credit the Gamecocks in 2006 for taking advantage of a Clemson slide (also of monumental proportions) as the Gamecocks got the best of the Tigers for just the second time this decade. Still ... Still, South Carolina lost to Arkansas, Tennessee and Florida in the weeks leading up to the game and it was only a 52-7 win over Middle Tennessee State that helped save its season the week before facing Clemson.

If ever there were truly a "New Carolina," this would be the point in time where it existed.

The Gamecocks would follow the win over Clemson with a 10-point victory over Houston in the Liberty bowl. To date, that is the lone bowl win of the Steve Spurrier era in Columbia.

2005, of course, was the first year of the "old ball coach" roaming the sidelines in Columbia, and once again it featured a loss to Clemson. Strangely enough the Gamecocks actually won five straight before facing the Tigers that year. It still didn't matter, of course, as Clemson converted a 1st-and-35 late in the fourth quarter to rally to a 13-9 victory.

Fast forward to 2009 and here we are once again on the precipice of what some South Carolina fans are already suggesting is the biggest game in school history.


Facing off with No. 15 Clemson at home in a season which South Carolina is 6-5 and losers of it last three games makes this the biggest game in school history?

Much in the same of the "New Carolina," I don't get it.

If South Carolina has struggled down the stretch in recent years, haven't they done it even more this season? Keep in mind the Gamecocks haven't scored more than 16 points in a single game since beating Kentucky way back on Oct. 10. Keep in mind it's another three-game losing streak coming into the Clemson game.

Keep in mind it's another Gamecock team that has an SEC-worthy defense and another below average offense. (What was Steve Spurrier brought to do in Columbia anyway?)

Coming now full circle ... what exactly is the "New Carolina?"

I don't know.

A quick Google search pulls up a web site dedicated to South Carolina's council on competiveness. Not the Gamecock football program, mind you, but the state's ability to improve the economy and build stronger communities.

Sounds pretty good, but it doesn't answer my question.

Each player at South Carolina seems to be buying into whatever this newness is all about because apparently now everyone from the starting quarterback to the water boy now "understands" what this rivalry means after last year's beat down in Death Valley.

Really? Does anyone really believe a player for either team doesn't understand the importance of a game like this?

Wait, I think I understand now. Perhaps the "New Carolina" is one in which we celebrate 10-point losses to the No. 1 team in the country as a sign the program is turning the corner?

Or maybe it is one in which we downplay the divisional championship of our archrival because they don't play in the SEC, hoping it somehow improves our own reputation?

Or perhaps it's one that resorts back to comforting statement of "Wait 'til next year!" Surely in year No. 19 of playing in the SEC we'll figure out a way to become respectable against the rest of the league.

No, I really don't know what the "New Carolina" is.

I'm not even really sure I want to.

But whatever it is, I'm "all in" with what I've seen so far. Top Stories