Morris: Change needed in USC's rivalry

November 27, 2009 

THE NUMBERS REALLY are quite startling.

South Carolina would have to win every game against Clemson until 2037 just to even the series. Dabo Swinney will be 68 by then. Steve Spurrier will be 93.

Since USC ran up the score in a 56-20 victory against Clemson in 1975, the Tigers have rung up a 24-8-1 record.

USC has not won consecutive games in the series since capturing three straight when radio color commentary Tommy Suggs was the quarterback from 1968-70.

Clemson has won six of the past seven meetings and 10 of the past 12.

USC has won two of the past 14 meetings in Columbia.

Naturally, the question is why? Why does Clemson dominate this series? Why can't USC put together any kind of streak against its rival? Why have USC fans had to suffer so much over the years?

Steve Spurrier will coach his fifth game in the series on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium. He is a bit of sports history buff, so he is well-versed in how Clemson annually takes the Hardee's traveling trophy out of its case, dusts it off and puts in back in its place.

Yet Spurrier is just as baffled by the lopsided nature of the series.

"I don't have the answer for that," Spurrier said earlier this week. "I just feel like talking about the past absolutely does us no good. I'm worried about the game this week. I really believe the game this Saturday will stand on its own merit, like all games do.

"Hopefully, we can put together our best effort of the year. Hopefully, we can play without some crucial errors that have hampered us.

"So, I don't have the answer for that."

While Spurrier might not have an answer for the history part of the series, he believes he has a solution for winning future games against Clemson. He says beating Clemson starting Saturday and beyond is all about getting better players, coaching his team better and generally having a better team.

"People always asked me how did we start beating Georgia all of a sudden?" Spurrier said of his 12-season stay at Florida when the Gators defeated rival Georgia 11 times. "I said, 'Because we had better teams in the 90s.'"

Admittedly, Spurrier has taken a less vocal approach to the USC-Clemson rivalry than Gamecock fans probably would like. They would prefer Spurrier say Clemson is the most important game on the schedule, like some of his predecessors have said.

It is not going to happen.

"I think we build it up without trying to put too much pressure on our guys," Spurrier said of his approach with his players. "I know when I first got here, there were signs all around this place saying 'Beat Clemson.'

"I said, 'Wait a minute, now, we want to beat everybody we play.'

"I don't think (the signs and talk are) helpful. I really don't. In my opinion, I've watched it and seen other teams get all fired up to beat somebody. The way you beat them is outplay them. You try to get either better players or get your players to play better than the other team.

"That's the way you've got to go about beating them. Sometimes I think the fans don't think we dislike them enough. We don't hate them enough. It's how you play the game that determines the winner."

It is the same level-headed approach Spurrier takes with his team prior to every game. He would prefer his club not get too high or too low from week to week. It is a big reason Spurrier rarely has given emotional pep talks to his team, either at the Friday night team meeting or prior to Saturday's kickoff.

Truth is, his tact makes perfect sense, if for no other reason than USC could use a different approach. Hating Clemson and everything the color orange has not worked so well over the past 106 meetings, so why not try a different method?

The favorite usually wins in this series, and Clemson has been the favorite most years. In other words, Clemson generally has had the better team in the series.

So, the way for USC to turn the tide and begin winning games against Clemson is to bring in better players, coach them to their potential and eventually field a better team than the Tigers.

Maybe then USC will string together a few wins against its rival. Maybe it will happen before Swinney has retired from coaching. Maybe Spurrier will not be 93 years old before it happens.

Maybe.

Listen to Morris Tuesdays from 4-5 p.m. on ESPN Radio 93.1 FM.

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