Heading down South once again for another in-state rivalry matchup - the Battle of the Palmetto State - South Carolina vs. Clemson
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The battle between these two public universities started back in the 1880s. The rivalry goes farther than just football. The deep-seated bitterness between these two schools all began after the Civil War. South Carolina was the state’s only public university, and after the war ended, they decided to open their doors to Blacks and women during the era of reconstruction.
White men were furious about the changes, and many withdrew from the university altogether. Clemson was then founded in 1889 as an all-white military school, and the two universities hated each other from that moment forward. The University stayed this way until 1955 when it changed to “civilian status” for a coeducational school.
The Battle of the Palmetto State, or the Palmetto Bowl as it’s called more often today, dates back to 1896 and has been an annual game since 1909 (that’s 105 games), and it the longest uninterrupted rivalry series in the South and the second longest series in the entire country. This rivalry has always been exciting. Although Clemson currently holds the lead at 65-42-4, their series record in the 21st century is almost a dead-even tie (7-6 USC) and their margin of victory between the two teams in less than a touchdown.
This is a vicious rivalry. One where on their game day you can feel the heat radiating off the stadium from miles away. Every year, each school participates in the tradition of burning their foes mascot. USC holds the “Tiger Burn” while Clemson holds a mock funeral of the USC mascot “Cocky”.
In 1961, a group of students from USC ran out onto the field before the Palmetto Bowl began dressed in Clemson uniforms. The Tigers fans jumped up and cheered them and the band began to play the Clemson fight song. The USC students went out on the field and began impersonating the Clemson warm up. They would drop passes, miss kicks and fall down all over the field. Once Clemson realized they had been tricked, students ran out onto the field and attacked the USC fans mocking them.
In 2004, a brawl broke out between the two teams during the Palmetto Bowl. It was Clemson head coach Lou Holtz last season. Both teams were eligible for bowl games, but were forced to forfeit their postseason due to unsportsmanlike conduct in the game.
This year, Clemson will head into the Palmetto Bowl looking to come out of their five-game losing streak against the Gamecocks over the last 5 seasons, and if there is a year to do that, it’s this one. The Tigers are currently ranked second in the ACC, 21st in the nation, and claiming only one loss in their last eight games. They will also see the return of their star quarterback Deshaun Watson who will be a huge force on the field.
USC on the other hand is currently 4-5 in the season and unranked. They are in their first year without their star quarterback Connor Shaw who moved into the NFL after last season.
It will be disappointing for Clemson if they lose on Saturday, but in these games, anything can happen.