After this past Saturday’s edition of the Palmetto Bowl, it felt more like a mercy killing rather than a rivalry. Again.
This Clemson team, bruised and battered, in spite of a season unlike any other in recent times, crushed a team that this year that supposedly had what it took to end the streak. Sitting there watching, one had to be struck with one glaring question as the Tigers yet again, now seven times in a row, rolled to a 30-0 victory. Why?
Some people say it’s a law, a mandate that the two teams play every year. That isn’t true. It is, like many things these days, fake news, urban legend. There’s an opinion by some, myself included, this farce should end. I understand this opinion won’t be popular with some within the Clemson fan base, but here’s my rationale.
Clemson gains absolutely nothing in playing this hapless bunch. The Tigers’ season was down, at least by Clemson’s standard, and ended at 9-3. That same record by South Carolina would be a dream season. There would be free ice cream, a parade and a celebratory dumpster fire to mark such a monumental achievement.
This year was going to be their year. Oh how wrong they were. It has never been more obvious, these two team play on different plains, maybe even different planets. Folks that disagree might cite the Alabama and Auburn rivalry, where Alabama has dominated. While that’s true, Auburn at least makes it interesting, they have a pulse.
Some would argue it’s a tradition, but when tradition is all you’ve got as a reason to continue something futile, traditions be hanged. It was once tradition to dance around the May poll on May 1 every year. Trust me, no one dances around a maypole anymore. It’s ancient, irrelevant and mostly forgotten.
This rivalry is a one way street and it’s become so much so that it’s time to shake hands and part ways. The Tigers have mercilessly destroyed their rival 68-3 in just the last two meetings. Somebody, anybody has to cry “UNCLE!” and end this lopsided, irrelevant rivalry.
Last year, thanks to the Covid scheduling changes, Clemson never even noticed or cared that the two teams suspended the rivalry matchup. Honestly, how does either school benefit from a yearly beat down against this quintessential model of mediocrity?
Now, in the era of the College Football Playoff, the term “strength of schedule” is one of those data points that determines who’s in and who’s not. Look at Notre Dame, look at Cincinnati. This year, despite their records, their body of work, their strength of schedule could be a factor for either to be excluded. That’s a good enough reason to move on because, in most seasons it hurts Clemson. Therefore, there is truly no upside for Clemson to continue playing this worn out game.
I understand the smack talk the week before the game is fun but at some point it becomes redundant and it ceases to be fun. It almost crosses over and becomes pity. One can only laugh just so many times at those same memes that litter social media every year. There is only so much joy derived from beating up little brother. It’s literally like (pardon the pun) putting a Tiger in a Chicken coop. The outcome is so painfully obvious, it’s so easy and so unfulfilling.
As some conferences move towards a nine game conference game model, this should be the one of those games allowed to just fade away. Then, each school would be unencumbered and could seek a quality game with a team that better suits their talent. A game worth playing, one that really matters. Say a cross conference game with a B1G or a Big-12 team for Clemson and a Furman or The Citadel for the Gamecocks. A game and opponent both fanbases could actually point to and circle on the calendar with a sense of excitement not ambivalence.
I’d be willing to see this game go to being played every other year. Or, maybe, if a few rules were changed, have this match-up played as a post spring practice scrimmage.
Either way, it continues an outdated tradition and keep the alumni, and the purest amongst both fanbases placated. At this juncture, any change would be welcomed.
So, should this hollow rivalry, continue? I’m a realist, I understand this game will continue into perpetuity. Unfortunately, Clemson has tied itself to a dud, a conference doormat, a pariah and that’ll never change.
I guess sometimes even the worst things somehow survive, like a virus, to live another day. So it is with this game, this rivalry. It’s like an anvil around one’s neck, it weighs you down. As this season fades, there will still be those yelling, “wait’ll next year!” Sadly, for this pitiful rivalry, this mercy killing, its always about next year.
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