Now, those key industries: agriculture, architecture, engineering, and especially textiles - are no longer such strong identifiers of North and South Carolina. Now the rivalry is merely about football.
Unlike NC State's rivalry with UNC, where natives of North Carolina can argue about the different cultures and curricula of the two schools, the Clemson and NC State rivalry pitted together two land-grant schools with similarly strong roles in their respective state's economy. It's not like whichever school won the game would give its state a better fiscal year, but at a time when both South Carolina and North Carolina were competing for textile mills and cotton sales, the game served as a tangible point of competition between the two states.
Now, there's a hardly a functional textile mill to be found in either state. And where there used to be bustling mills, there's often only shells of the small towns that once composed the topography of the greater piedmont and coastal plains. Well, it's not that gloomy. North Carolina has done well as a technology and banking center, and South Carolina struck strip club gold with its Las Vegas of the South, Myrtle Beach.
Textiles is now a global industry, and NC State's College of Textiles has the largest percentage of international students (that would also mean students not from North Carolina) of any college on campus. The college is still recognized as the top program on the east coast, but rarely do its graduates remain in-state. Yes, there is still a sense of competition between State's textiles college and Clemson's School of Materials Science and Engineering, but as far as being rallying points for an entire state industry, those days are gone.
NC State's football program has certainly done well enough without needing to use the school's prestigious textiles engineering program to lure in-state recruits (also long past are the days when returning home four years later with a textile engineering degree would ensure you a prosperous and secure hometown job). Of course, many would say that academic programs aren't even that important anymore in recruiting.
The game still has a little bit of that North Carolina vs. South Carolina flair, but in this era the days preceding a NC State vs. Clemson game are not so much preceded by jokes about which state is better (South Carolina still has the nation's worst average SAT scores - Eat it Tigers!) or other cultural points. The rivalry remains heated because of some competitive football games, and the obvious comparison of the careers of Tommy Bowden and Chuck Amato, both burdened with big expectations when they were hired five and four years ago respectively.
Amato has steered a steady program and has been able to keep pace with an improving ACC, and has won the enthusiasm of fans and recruits. Bowden has felt pressure with an up-and-down tenure, and has had to deal with a greater shadow of past Clemson football success.
As both teams have fought for prized ground in the middle of the ACC the past years, games between the two teams have proven very key in ultimately determining bowl bids for each. That said, the Clemson/NC State rivalry still has plenty of luster, but as far as pulling together communities from both states, the Textile Bowl has lost its pull.