Clemson has success against SEC, just not USC

With its thrilling 38-35 victory over Georgia on Saturday, Clemson gave some legitimacy to its national title hopes and proved that, despite being an ACC team, it has no problems with the top teams of the SEC.

Going back to last year’s Chick-Fil-A Bowl against LSU, this was Clemson’s second consecutive victory over a Top 10 team from the SEC. Since Dabo Swinney took over for Tommy Bowden midway through 2008, the Tigers have gone 6-5 against SEC foes. Let’s peel back that number.

If you take out games against South Carolina, Swinney is 5-1 against the SEC, including games versus LSU, Georgia, Auburn, and Kentucky. The Tigers’ lone loss came at Auburn in a game Clemson lead 17-0 but eventually fell in overtime. Oh by the way, that Auburn team went on to win the national title.

So during the Swinney era, Clemson is a 5-yard penalty from going undefeated against non-South Carolina SEC opponents, including two Top-10 teams. As much as this says about the growth of Clemson’s program, it may say even more about South Carolina.

With all the talk about “SEC speed,” the only SEC team that has physically overmatched Clemson as of late has been South Carolina. The Gamecocks have won four straight in the rivalry and have embarrassed the Tigers every time.

Should South Carolina defeat Georgia on Saturday for the fourth straight year, things will set up nicely for the Palmetto state pair. After next weekend, South Carolina and Clemson will each have just one game against a Top 25 team, both at home, until their annual meeting on Nov. 30.

This creates the legitimate possibility of the rivalry featuring two undefeated teams with national title aspirations. There’s never been a better time to be a football fan in the Palmetto State and whether you support the Tigers or Gamecocks.

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