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South Carolina 34, Clemson 13. At the moment, Tiger fans can grasp for anything they want to pretend that USC isn't in control of the rivalry. We can bring up all-time records, last 20-year records, even last 10-year records. But the fact is, after USC's dominating win in Williams-Brice Stadium tonight for win three in-a-row, Clemson has fallen behind South Carolina in football. Period. The very reality of this paragraph is hard for me, as a Clemson alumni, to write. But it is true. The Gamecocks are currently in complete control of this rivalry.
Without their best player, running back Marcus Lattimore (who has been out for weeks), South Carolina was still able to do what good football teams do: run the football and dictate the game. QB Connor Shaw ran for 107 yards and a TD, and delivered another 3 TDs in the air behind 210 yards. Shaw played like a veteran, and my hat is off as a college fooball fan to a guy that played a great ballgame. He has my respect - something former QB Stephen Garcia never had with me as the USC signal-caller.
On defense, South Carolina smothered a Clemson offense that exploded early in 2011, but couldn't find a spark after week nine. The Tigers gained just 154 yards of total offense in this game.
In the big picture, Clemson has work to do. USC went 40 years without beating the Tigers three straight. Now, we are two hours removed from that feat for them.
This is a blog, not the AP official game report. So my late-night thoughts - as The Top Fan - is that this sucks, but that the better team won. USC has a great D, and with Cock QB Connor Shaw able to pick up yards with his feet the way he does, USC is ahead of Clemson right now. There is no other way to slice it.
A great rivalry is one that goes back-and-forth, and that has games that have an impact on the national level. I cannot say yet that USC-Clemson is a national factoring game, because it is not. But the intensity is second-to-none and I truly believe it is heading that way.
Congrats to USC. A very strong bowl game awaits for them, and I would expect South Carolina to be favored the way Connor Shaw has emerged to take control of the offense. This team deserves to win a big bowl - if they can focus.
For Clemson, it is time to stay focused, also. We are young. Very young. Our linebackers wear diapers. Three night road losses are hard to swallow, but can be building blocks. The Gamecocks are better right now, but I have 100% confidence that Clemson will be ready in 2012 to address this problem.
Look, I am a Clemson Tiger to the inner-core. This sucks right now. I have complete and total respect for my rival, USC, and how they have beaten us convincingly three years straight. But as I call it a day here at 2:55 am, I promise that we will be ready in 2012 in Death Valley to get things back to normal.
If USC wants to turn this into a top-notch rivalry, I couldn't be happier. Great. Bring it on. Let's do this.
This may be a post I wish I could edit in the AM, but for now, it is what it is.
Congrats, Gamecocks, you are clearly on top right now.
See you in 12 months.
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