It's time to celebrate, Gamecocks fans! Carolina just made themselves comfortable in Clemson's house and put a major whipping on the Tigers. The game really wasn't even as close as the final 29-7 score. Clemson never threatened to score after its early TD and Carolina had pity on its Upstate rival and took its foot off the gas in the second half. The gap between the two teams, especially considering that it all went down in front of what was early on a thoroughly energized Clemson crowd, was thoroughly apparent.
And that's what's so incredible about what Carolina did tonight. Before tonight, we hadn't won two straight against Clemson since the 1960s, and now we've done to the tune of a 63-24 total margin of victory. We've been waiting for years for the Gamecocks to make the Palmetto Bowl a rivalry again, and Carolina just did it with a bang. This isn't just a rivalry again, it's now Carolina's edge to lose. We now look to be the stronger program, and it's easy to imagine our success against Clemson continuing next season. Clemson will undoubtedly field an improved team next year if they can keep their recruiting class together, but with all the offensive talent we have coming back and the game returning to Columbia, it's hard to see us not being the favorite again next time around. Winning three straight against Clemson was difficult for Gamecocks' fans to imagine a couple of years back after the Tigers whipped Carolina in 2008, but it now seems very easy to conceive. Pounding a team two straight years can do that for your confidence level.
In a season of many firsts, asserting ourselves in this rivalry is one of the sweetest. It may not have any immediate bearing on the SEC standings. However, after years of dealing with obnoxious Clemson fans look down on Carolina, it's now Carolina's turn to enjoy some success. That's a great feeling. It's what college football is all about, and it's something we have gotten to enjoy much until now.
A few quick thoughts on the game:
1. Spencer Lanning deserves a game ball. Lanning missed a FG and had an XP blocked. (Our XP team needs some work, by the way.) However, his punting tonight was beautiful, and it allowed us to completely control field position in the second half. That was important, because I'm sure that Spurrier was happy to be able to play it safe and not ask Stephen Garcia or Marcus Lattimore to do to much in order to not have to risk injury going into the SEC Championship Game. Lanning's punting made it easy for us to do that, because it put us in the position of not really having to worry about the outcome of the game for most of the second half.
2. The secondary has come full circle. Sure, they got some help from Clemson's anemic passing game. (What happened to Kyle Parker, by the way? That was some noodly-armed QBing from the Clemson signal-caller. I take it this wasn't what he came back for.) But Carolina's secondary, outside of the early TD, again looked miles ahead of where it was earlier this season. They were consistently in position and showed a nose for the ball. What we've been doing since after Arkansas has worked, and it's helped this defense morph into an elite unit.
3. Did Alshon Jeffery give the Biletnikoff folks something to think about? I'm watching Oklahoma wrap up a victory over Oklahoma St., and Justin Blackmon has been good but not great. I still think Blackmon wins the award, but Jeffery may have given himself a chance to put himself closer to contention for the award for the nation's best receiver.
That's a wrap for tonight. We'll be back tomorrow with more coverage and analysis.