This website has praised Clemson University’s football team when they deserved it – and there’s no doubt the Tigers’ thrilling 40-35 victory over No. 7 Ohio State in the 2014 Orange Bowl was a praiseworthy performance.
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd finished his record-setting college career in spectacular fashion – running and throwing the football – and wide receiver Sammy Watkins showed once again why he is among the most gifted players in the country at any position. At any level.
Thanks to solid recruiting by head coach Dabo Swinney, Chad Morris’ always-electric offense and a vastly improved defense under second-year coordinator Brent Venables, Clemson is truly one of the nation’s elite programs – which is why it was so disappointing to see Swinney use the occasion of his team’s Orange Bowl victory to throw a not-so-subtle jab at his in-state rival, the University of South Carolina.
“We are the first team from the state of South Carolina to ever win a BCS game,” Swinney crowed after the Tigers big win.
Really, Dabo? Really?
We held our tongues in our write-up of the Orange Bowl out of respect to Boyd, Watkins and the rest of the Clemson team (who didn’t deserve to have their moment spoiled by a classless coach with an itching inferiority complex).
But not now …
If Dabo Swinney is going to try and score points against South Carolina via postseason trash talk (which we suppose is understandable seeing as his program can’t score points against the Gamecocks on the field), then it’s important to put his comment in context.
First and foremost, here’s the dirty little secret about that “prestigious” Bowl Championship Series bid Clemson received. As we noted in a previous column, Clemson didn’t earn its trip to Miami – that bid was handed to them because they play football in an inferior conference.
The ACC’s 2013-14 bowl record? 4-6. The SEC’s? 7-2.
Next, before Swinney runs down the Gamecocks he might want to take a look at the schedule South Carolina played. Five of USC’s 2013 opponents won bowl games this year – including two BCS victors. Clemson defeated precisely one bowl champion – Syracuse (which is unranked and finished the year with a 7-6 record).
Then there’s simple rivalry arithmetic. Prior to Swinney’s arrival at Clemson, the Tigers flat out owned South Carolina. In fact we famously referred to it as a “Rivalry in Name Only.” Since then, though, Clemson has gone 1-5 against the Gamecocks – including five losses in a row.
Seriously Dabo, if you’re going to talk trash about a rival program it helps to beat them occasionally – something the Tigers haven’t done since before the Great Recession. Or since Miley Cyrus was sixteen years old (and still going by the name of Hannah Montana).
And while Swinney likes to brag about winning 11 games in back-to-back seasons (a Clemson first), he should try doing it three times in a row like the Gamecocks have done – and do it against teams not named Wake Forest or Virginia.
Don’t get us wrong, this is a great time to be a Clemson fan – and a great time to be a football fan in the Palmetto State. Both Clemson and South Carolina are clearly Top Ten programs churning out elite NFL talent – programs with bright futures ahead of them. And trash talk is expected – and encouraged – in the rivalry.
But there’s such a thing as “room to talk,” and when it comes to running down the Gamecock program in an effort to artificially inflate his own team’s status (at a time when it was totally unnecessary to do so) – Dabo has no room.
Clemson’s dramatic, come-from-behind victory over Ohio State – like its big wins over Georgia and LSU – speaks for itself. Unfortunately for Tiger fans, Dabo Swinney speaks for Clemson.