A Satisfying End to the Season

Who says women don't know football? Ronda Templeton's 'Gridiron & Grits' sports column comes straight at you with a distinctly female — and Southern — flavor. Today this die-hard Gamecock and SEC football fanatic talks about her favorite event in college football - a trouncing of the hated Clemson Tigers by the Gamecocks.

My beloved Gamecocks' 2009 season came to an end Saturday in long-wished-for fashion: South Carolina triumphed over its cross-state archrivals from Clemson University in a victory that left our orange and purple-clad foes slack-jawed in shock.

After all, Clemson came into the game feeling a little . . . well, cocky. As winners of their ACC division, the Tigers and their fans seemed to think their visit to Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C., was little more than a formality.

Watching them file out of our stadium stunned, silent and sheepish was indeed a moment to relish.

I have to admit that the first few minutes of the game seemed like a frustration dream. You know those dreams - they're the ones in which you dial a phone number repeatedly because you keep getting one digit wrong, or you're going on a trip but can never get your suitcase properly packed.

Anyway, when Clemson's C.J. Spiller returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, my heart sank. I thought we were in for yet another loss (sadly, going into Saturday's game, Clemson held a 65-37-4 advantage). But four quarters later, with the scoreboard frozen at 34-17, victory tasted sweet.

It tasted just as sweet a few hours later when I walked proudly into one of Columbia's finer eateries accompanied by my college roommate, Jill, and our good friend Renee. For the first time in a while, we didn't have to slink past celebrating Clemson fans. This year, we held our heads high and marched proudly to our table, clad in our garnet and black finery. It was a great moment!

SEC, baby, SEC!

When Saturday's ACC-SEC rivalry games came to an end, there was a clear winner: the SEC, of course. I've long said that low-in-the-standings SEC teams suffer by comparison to their powerful rivals. It's hard to come out on top of the heap when your conference foes include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss . . . you get the picture.

I'm sure the ACC felt somewhat abashed when both of its division champs - Clemson and Georgia Tech - fell to their SEC arch nemeses: South Carolina and Georgia, respectively. Florida State, another ACC school, was likewise trounced by No. 1 Florida.

Let's face it, the national champion has emerged from the ranks of the SEC in three of the last four years. In the south, where football is a religion, the big conferences are the ACC and the SEC. There's little doubt that the SEC is by far the stronger conference, at least for now: Georgia and South Carolina - two teams that are by no means at the top of the SEC rankings this season - took their ACC division rivals to the woodshed.

That explains why, as the Carolina-Clemson game drew to an end, the chants of "USC" were replaced by "S-E-C." We support our own teams first and the SEC second. So, "Go, Florida!" or "Go, Alabama!" Keep the BCS championship title within the SEC - right where it belongs.

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