Of every team which lost on rivalry weekend, it’s quite possible that no one lost more- literally and figuratively- than the Clemson Tigers. For Clemson they not only lost a game to in-state rival South Carolina 27-17, but also a potential shot at a BCS bowl berth, as well as credibility for their entire conference as well.
For the Tigers, things started off so quickly and with such promise, in a game which they entered as the Vegas favorite and were looking to beat the Gamecocks for the first time since 2008. Clemson jumped out to a 14-7 lead after one quarter, and it appeared as though their high-powered offense- which entered the game averaging 44.7 points per game- wasn’t going to be slowed down all night.
Until it was.
After that hot first quarter, South Carolina’s defense stepped up with one of its best efforts of the season, and from there quarterback Dylan Thompson did the rest. Thompson finished with 310 yards passing and three touchdown scores and the Gamecocks’ defense held Clemson to just a single field goal over the final three quarters to wrap up the win.
And for Clemson, the loss wasn’t just about the result on the scoreboard, but so much more.
It’s no secret that this has been one of the best seasons in school history for the Tigers, and with a victory it seemed certain they would’ve been in-line for their first ever BCS at-large berth, just a year after playing in the Orange Bowl as the ACC Champions. Two BCS bowl games in two years ain’t shabby for anyone.
Unfortunately with the loss Saturday, the school will have to wait to see how next weekend’s games play out and hope they’ve done enough to get them that big-time bowl bid they’re hoping for. Entering this afternoon, their most likely landing spot would’ve been the Sugar Bowl, but with a second loss now on their resume, Clemson could get shut out of the BCS completely and end up somewhere else, likely the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta. Remember, this season started for Clemson Atlanta, with an opening weekend win over Auburn.
Of course beyond just bowl slotting, Clemson’s loss was also another black eye for the ACC as a whole. The conference entered the day with an opportunity to make a statement on the national scene, with four conference teams playing SEC rivals, and three of those games coming on the ACC’s home turf. In addition to Clemson and South Carolina, Florida State hosted Florida, Georgia Tech played rival Georgia and Wake Forest took on Vanderbilt in Winston-Salem.
Unfortunately for the ACC, a day which started off with so much promise ended up with a whimper, as all four teams lost. Ironically, Clemson’s loss was the narrowest (the other three lost by a total of 77 points) but in a lot of ways, also the most painful. The Tigers were at home and mostly healthy against a Gamecocks club which limped in without its starting quarterback (Connor Shaw) or best player (Marcus Lattimore). And Clemson still lost.
Now it’s back to the drawing board for the ACC as they get set for bowl play, and back to the drawing board for Clemson.
A night which started with so much promise only ended with so much pain, for both the school and the conference they play in.
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