Carolina vs. Clemson - War of National Powers

GamecockAnthem.com featured columnist Roger A. Olivieri previews this weekend's much anticipated clash between in-state powerhouses South Carolina and Clemson.



It has long been noted that some conquerors prefer enemies as fierce as tigers and brave as eagles, for only then can they savor the true joy of victory.

--Lu Xun (1881-1936), Chinese writer. From "The True Story of Ah Q" (1918).

Jealousy, whether conscious or not, drives thoughts of revulsion deep into the skin of both Carolina and Clemson. Whether the sport be played on the gridiron or the hard courts, usually one opponent is far superior than the other on a year to year basis – or neither at all. Subconsciously, Clemson's 63-17 thumping of South Carolina a few years ago fed angry jealousy more than it did "rivalry." Steve Tannyhill's antics in Clemson's house after a South Carolina win set off a jealous rage more than it did "rivalry."

For this reason, the in-state rivalry spurned by jealous hate, takes on ugly scenes from time to time. Only three seasons ago, Carolina and Clemson were embarrassed nationally after that emotion of the rivalry turned violent.

It's within the level of play, the fierceness of the battle though, that the true rivalry stands tall. With Clemson and South Carolina embarking on what could turn out to be a magical baseball season for the state of South Carolina, this weekend brings on "rivalry" in its healthiest form: Top notch national talent on one field to match superior wits and advanced skill while both sides enjoy the spotlight.

Two top 5 teams, the Gamecocks and Tigers steal the national spotlight – more glaring by the day – of NCAA baseball. Everyone is watching to see how good they really are. Rice, Vanderbilt, Texas – they're as curious as everyone in our fine state.

The ensuing war this weekend goes beyond Carolina/Clemson too – yet another sign of a healthy rivalry. These two powerhouses put the reputation of their brothers on the line as well, for the SEC vs. ACC argument is just as fierce in 2007 as it ever was before.




Where it began...

Rivalries can be natural occurrences when "turf" presents the crisis. The size of turf can instigate the rivalry even more. For example, Rice vs. Texas pits two national powers against each other. The "backyard" for which they fight though is huge, offering plenty of room for agreement, opinions and room to work without interfering in the objectives of the other. Take that rivalry in Texas (Total area: 267,277 sq mi, Population 20,851,820) and chop more than 85% of it off. South Carolina (Total area: 31,189 sq mi, Population 4,012,012) is roughly 12% the size of Texas, yet they have two teams just as powerful (if not more) in search of the same territory. Heads, elbows, arms and especially ego are bound to collide.

"There's a history of bad blood between these institutions," says Jay McCormick, a doctoral candidate at USC, who has extensively studied the early years of the series. "So when athletics came to Carolina and to Clemson, it was natural that they should be a rivalry. The rivalry extends back to political and social origins. It's not just an athletic rivalry. It's a manifestation of these things."

South Carolina governor, Benjamin Tillman, served in office from 1890 to 1894 and became a U.S. Senator from 1895 until his death in 1918. He remains at the forefront of why these two fine institutions look forward to crushing each other annually. Tillman pointed a finger at (then) South Carolina College, accusing it of ignoring the home state farmers. He convinced Thomas Clemson into donating his property to form a college specializing in agriculture. Holding vicious animosity towards the accused (South Carolina) and a new college to call its' own - for its' own, the state became divided. The scholarly looked down on the blue collar workers, while blue collars resented the pompous scholarly. The hatred shared between South Carolina and Clemson has boiled for more than eleven decades into this – the nation's top powers fighting it out for standing room only in a state almost 90% smaller than baseball-rich Texas, with just as perilous the weaponry.

There's been some bloodshed along the way. Every five to ten years there seems to be an embarrassing punishment, a grueling battle or in some cases – a fight to the death (see 1980 and 2002).

Prolific Battles Along the Way...

- Almost 108 (1899) years ago, Clemson dragged the Gamecocks down to Charleston and beat them 21-8.
- Eighteen years later (1917), the Gamecocks got hammered again 18-2. This beating was in Columbia.
- Eleven years later (1928) the two teams wrestled to an 11 inning tie 3-3. Unsure if Bud Selig was in attendance.
- In 1930 USC laid their first whoopin' on the Tigers, returning an 18-2 "we owed you one" game in Columbia.
- In 1947 Clemson crushes South Carolina 17-3.
- In 1961 Clemson hangs a 21-5 pounding on the Gamecocks in Clemson.
- The next year, the Gamecocks score 17 points and lose by 10! No, this one was not played at Williams Brice Stadium.
- In 1965 Clemson wins 18-1.
- On Tax Day 1969 at VA Hospital Field, the two teams play to a 4-4 tie after 13 innings.
- The following (1970) year the teams trade 2-1 victories in an April 14th double header.
- In 1980, the Tigers handed USC two vicious losses in two days to eliminate the Gamecocks from the NCAA Tournament.
- In 1985 the Gamecocks swept Clemson six games to love (14-2, 11-6, 6-5, 12-6, 8-6, and 8-3)
- In 1990 the Gamecocks crushed the Tigers 21-2 at "The Sarge."
- 1993: Clemson 17 – Carolina 3.
- 1996: Tigers sweep 4 games. Two of which are on consecutive weekends ending in consecutive shutouts (11-0 and 8-0).
- THEN THERE'S 1997. With the Tigers squashing USC 15-1 on April 9th, Ray Tanner returns the favor in ostentatious fashion. The Gamecocks hang five touchdowns and a field goal on the Tigers, winning 38-16.


AND THE ONLY REASON 1997 ISN'T THE MOST MEMORABLE WAR AMONGST THE ENEMIES...

In the 2002 College World Series, the teams met in the semifinals. Clemson needed only one win to advance to the championship game. However, the Gamecocks beat them convincingly, 12-4 and 10-2, to advance to the national championship game. This battle in Omaha, Nebraska remains the only time the two athletic programs have met with the national title on the line. Technically speaking, that's about to change this weekend. (someone cue up the Rocky music...)

Not to mention the largest crowd to ever see a game at Sarge Frye Field was in 2004 when the Gamecocks hosted... guess who. Right, these same Tigers.

M.I.A

Both national powers will be missing major parts of the whole. The Gamecocks are without left fielder Robbie Grinestaff. He was second on the team last year in home runs and an integral part of the 6th most powerful offense in the nation.

Clemson was struck with ill fated news as well when they needed to shelve starting shortstop Stan Widmann with a neck injury.

As for the effects it may have on either team, they probably cancel each other out. The Gamecocks have the better fill in though, at this point in the season.

Coaching Breakdown

Who puts Jack Leggett up against Ray Tanner and picks a winner? Two of the best coaches in the country all wrapped up in one little state. This is a wash. Two incredible baseball minds who've accumulated incredible talents about to create one hell of an incredible weekend.

Position by Position Breakdown

Click the link for a full position by position breakdown of this weekend's match-up: South Carolina/Clemson Breakdown Chart

Prediction:

The Gamecocks and Tigers have a weekend split, with each road team escaping with a "W." USC wins game one Saturday in Doug Kingsmore Stadium; while Clemson comes back Sunday to win a "throw down" at the Sarge.

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