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Clemson at South Carolina: How the Gamecocks Got the Upper-Hand in a Formerly Lopsided Rivalry

Dabo fires back at Spurrier (via Tigernetdotcom)

Most of you have probably seen this rant that Dabo Swinney gave earlier tonight after Clemson's practice. Needless to say, it's gold, particularly considering that Spurrier never made the comments in question; Todd Ellis did. It will certainly be interesting to see how Spurrier responds next year in Death Valley. You also have to wonder this: if Dabo says we're not Clemson, what does he think about himself? When it comes to this rivalry, he's about as far removed from Danny Ford's glory days as one can imagine. "Even Tommy Bowden could beat Carolina," I've heard many Clemson fans say over the past week.

Anywho, as unprofessional (and clearly scripted) as Dabo's rant was, he's right--this rivalry has historically been lopsided in Clemson's favor. It will more or less require complete and utter domination for us to overtake the all-time series record in my lifetime. (I'm 30.) So what's happened these past three years? How have we gone from whipping boy to winning three straight by large margins?

It's an interesting question, mainly because it's one that gives a lot of insight into how we've improved in recent years. We've also, of course, turned our series with Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida around, but in each case, you could argue that that has as much to do with those programs' struggles as it does with us. (I'm not saying that's true, but you could argue it.) Not so with Clemson. Clemson is more or less the same program it was during the Bowden years--a pretty solid program that's competitive in the ACC, but not an elite program. The difference in the series, here, has more to do with Carolina than it's opponent. In what ways has Carolina superseded the Tigers?

During the Bowden years, if one thing was certain, it was that Clemson would whip us up front. That's no longer the case. The 2009 game was revelatory from this standpoint. That Gamecocks team, which was worse than what we have now, was much more physical than Clemson on both sides of the line of scrimmage. We were able to run the ball at will, and they never got anything serious going offensively until a couple of big plays gave them a late TD. They had no running game to speak of. Fast forward to 2011 and you see the same thing. We dominated the game up front, with our defensive line having a particularly striking outing.

If there's one thing that sets the big boys apart from the middle tier, it's the ability to recruit quality depth along the lines. While there are only a few Marcus Lattimore's and Alshon Jeffery's out there, it's also true that four-star RB's and WR's are quite common. However, talented lineman as hard to find, and it takes a good coaching staff to develop them properly. We've made huge waves in this regard over the past few years, particularly on defense. The offensive line is a work in progress, but compared to Clemson's, it's pretty good. If you think our offensive-line depth is bad, take a look at what losing Phillip Price has done to CU. There are other reasons, of course, why we've overtaken Clemson, but this seems like the main one to me.