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Swinney or Spurrier?

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Which coach has the upper hand in the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry?

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DABO SWINNEY
STEVE SPURRIER

Must-win situation

Adelson By Andrea Adelson
ESPN.com
Archive

Steve Spurrier has the upper hand on Dabo Swinney in the "stirring the pot" column.

He has the upper hand in the head-to-head matchups column.

But here is where Swinney has the upper hand: in the championships column. In fact, you could argue that Swinney has done more for the Tigers in a shorter period of time. Clemson goes into its game against South Carolina on Saturday with a higher ranking and a better record.

And yes, the Tigers also go in with a better offense, a sleek scoring machine that has put up 40 or more points in nine of 11 games this season. While Clemson did not win the ACC this season, it is in position to make it to the BCS for a second straight year.

Know how many times Spurrier has taken South Carolina to the BCS?

Zero.

Now, this is not meant to knock what Spurrier has done at South Carolina. He has lifted a program from the doldrums into the Top 25 every single season. But he vowed to win a conference championship when he arrived in 2005 -- and he has yet to deliver. The Gamecocks have been close, but they have not been close enough.

Swinney delivered last year, getting Clemson its first ACC title in 20 years, and its first Orange Bowl appearance in 30 years. Yes, the Tigers got embarrassed on the national stage, but at least they got there, and have shown much more progress this season.

This senior class has won 35 games, the most by a Clemson senior class since 1991. They have recorded two seasons with at least 10 wins, the first class to do that since the seniors of 1992. And they won 10 regular-season games this year for first time since 1981.

All of this has happened with Swinney leading the way. Now go ahead and argue that Spurrier plays in a much tougher conference, and in a much tougher division. And I will tell you he won an ACC title at Duke.

Now having made that point, this is as big a must-win Swinney has had while at Clemson. These seniors have not beaten South Carolina. With a win, they end a three-game losing streak to their in-state rivals, potentially get into a BCS game, and maybe stop some of the Spurrier jabs.

Well, maybe temporarily.

"This is not about me and Coach Spurrier," Swinney said. "It's not.

"Some might want to make it that way, but I'm not really comfortable with that. I want our guys to play great, and I'm just trying to get a first down on Saturday."

A win, too.

He's changed the rivalry

Low By Chris Low
ESPN.com
Archive

It seems as if the Head Ball Coach is playing nice this week.

The bad news for Dabo Swinney and Clemson fans is that Steve Spurrier is only playing nice in the media.

Come game time on Saturday night in Death Valley (Light), it's on.

Spurrier lives for games of this magnitude. It's what has made him a first-ballot Hall of Fame coach. It's why his mug would be up there on the Mount Rushmore of SEC coaches. It's a big reason he's the winningest coach at two SEC schools.

I realize for ACC fans that this may be a bit too much football talk with basketball season already under way, but comparing Spurrier to Swinney is akin to comparing Augusta National to your standard country club course.

Swinney has done a solid job at Clemson. He has recruited like gangbusters. He may not be quite Les Miles-esque in terms of sound bites, but he's full of energy and always selling the program. He also has guided the Tigers to their first 10-win regular season since the 1981 national championship season.

What he hasn't been able to do is beat Spurrier, at least not in the past three seasons. The Gamecocks have won three in a row in the series for the first time since 1968-70. They'll be gunning for their first four-game winning streak in the series since 1951-54.

What's more, the past three games haven't even been close. South Carolina has won all three by 17 points or more and has outscored Clemson by a total of 60 points in those three games.

Still, even the most die-hard South Carolina fan would begrudgingly admit that this hasn't been much of a rivalry over the past three decades or so. Clemson has dominated the series.

But similar to the way he changed the culture at South Carolina in the toughest conference in the land, Spurrier changed the course of this rivalry.

The Gamecocks have won four of the past six meetings under Spurrier. For perspective, in the 25 years prior to his taking the job in 2005, South Carolina had won a total of six games over Clemson.

Spurrier has also won most of the marquee in-state recruiting battles of late. The last four Mr. Football award winners in the state of South Carolina have signed with the Gamecocks, including Jadeveon Clowney.

It has been entertaining to watch Spurrier and Swinney go at it verbally over the past year.

Remember Swinney's rant after the Gamecocks' 34-13 win last season? It was precipitated by comments Swinney thought Spurrier made that were actually made by South Carolina radio play-by-play announcer Todd Ellis, a former South Carolina quarterback.

Swinney responded by saying that his kids' grandkids wouldn't live long enough to ever see Clemson vs. South Carolina become a real rivalry.

That may be, but there's only one real coaching icon who will take the field Saturday in Death Valley.