COLUMBIA, S.C. - Clemson and South Carolina meet Saturday in the 111th renewal of the in-state rivalry, and so far all is quiet.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier are playing nice.
So far. But it's early.
The two have exchanged verbal jabs over the years, and while it may be difficult to say who is ahead on points in that fight, on the playing field, it's strictly no contest.
Spurrier has whipped the pants off Swinney in what has been a classic case of substance over style.
Swinney is 1-4 against South Carolina and Spurrier since taking over as head coach from Tommy Bowden at Clemson in October 2008.
The Tigers beat the Gamecocks 31-14 that first year but haven't really been close since, losing 34-17 in 2009, 29-7 in 2010, 34-13 in 2011 and 27-17 in 2012.
Each year, the Tigers come into the game with a vast array of skill position talent and offensive numbers that would make some pro teams blush.
The difference in all four games is that South Carolina has dominated the line of scrimmage offensively and defensively.
Substance over style.
In each case, Spurrier and South Carolina have been able to impose their will on the Tigers, shutting down the run and pressuring the quarterback on defense, and moving the football on offense with a balanced attack behind a line that has pushed the Tigers off the line of scrimmage.
It's not that style can't carry a coach a long way.
Swinney has more or less delivered following what has been one of the most curious head coaching hires in college football history.
At the risk of asking a question without knowing the answer, how many times has a school permanently hired an assistant coach off the staff of the man it just fired, particularly a position coach, not a coordinator, with no previous head coaching experience?
Yet the Clemson faithful almost universally applauded Swinney's hiring when the Tigers dumped Bowden in midstream in 2008.
Swinney's style seems to resonate with the Clemson people. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and speaks often and passionately about many things—some best left alone.
Even though he struggles against Spurrier, his support remains strong thanks to a solid overall record. He's 50-22 as head coach at Clemson with an ACC title to his credit and a BCS bowl berth.
A conference title and a BCS bowl berth have thus far eluded Spurrier in nine seasons at South Carolina.
And make no mistake about it: Clemson owns the series. The Tigers lead 65-41-4.
Nevertheless, if Swinney hopes to hang around at Clemson, he needs to start beating the Gamecocks with more regularity.
If South Carolina extends its four-game winning streak to 28 games, the Gamecocks will tie the series in 2037.
Spurrier would be 98. Swinney would be 71.
It's almost conceivable that Spurrier might still be coaching. Swinney, of course, would be long gone.
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