THE BAD THING ABOUT losing before an open date, as Steve Spurrier noted Sunday, is your team has two weeks to think about the loss.
If South Carolina cannot figure out a way to slay the Orange beast from the Upstate on Thanksgiving weekend, the Gamecocks and their fans will have 35 weeks before preseason practices starts in August to dwell on another season gone south.
Not long after USC's 24-14 loss to No. 1 Florida, thoughts turned to Clemson.
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There was no reason for USC players to spout the "one game at a time" mantra. There is no scheduled game beyond Nov. 28 - as far as the regular season, anyway.
Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia channeled his inner Yogi when discussing the importance of the rivalry game.
"It's going to be the same as any other game, except it's Clemson," Garcia said. "So everybody's going to be a lot more juiced up."
It's going to be the same as any other week. Only it's not.
Win, and the Gamecocks (6-5) are guaranteed a winning record and have a shot at an attractive bowl locale, which is not to say a "warm weather" locale. They also spare their fans a year of hazing for the 11th time in 13 seasons.
Lose, and there will be a lot of unsold bowl tickets from USC's allotment for Shreveport or Birmingham.
Don't think the Clemson game sets the tone for the offseason?
Ask the restaurant managers and hotel owners in Tampa, where Iowa fans outnumbered the Gamecocks' 2-to-1 last season after USC limped into the Outback Bowl following back-to-back losses, including a 17-point defeat to the Tigers.
And that was for a New Year's Day bowl game in a metropolitan Florida city with a lot going on. How excited do you think a family of four is going to be about trudging to Shreveport to see a 6-6 team play a middle-of-the-pack Big 12 team?
But the Gamecocks can wipe the slate clean with a victory against Clemson, which USC players were calling their "second season" in the locker room after the Florida loss.
Let the record state that Garcia was the first to put the Clemson game in the "must-win" category for the Gamecocks.
"Being 7-5 as opposed to 6-6 would be huge for us," he said. "It should have been a little bit better record. But it didn't work out that way. This is a huge game for us."
USC receiver Moe Brown grew up in Anderson. The senior needs no reminders about the importance of this game.
"When you end your season on a win, especially against your in-state rival - everyone knows how important that game is - it definitely gives you something to smile about when you look back on the season," Brown said.
As has been the case in previous Novembers, USC and Clemson seem to be heading in opposite directions. The Gamecocks have scored 63 points in dropping four of their past five games.
No. 18 Clemson (7-3) has put up at least 38 points every game during its current five-game win streak. The Tigers have a Heisman Trophy candidate in tailback C.J. Spiller, who had a touchdown trifecta - one each throwing, running and receiving - in Clemson's victory against N.C. State.
"We can look at it as the last year of C.J. Spiller," Spurrier said. "I tell you, that guy's a good player. He's something. A lot of games they haven't used him all that much. They're using him now extremely well."
USC's defensive staff will have two weeks to prepare for Spiller, while devising some way to start creating turnovers. The Gamecocks have gone four games without one.
"We've got to get a turnover before the year's out," Spurrier said.
A win would be nice, too - for bowl positioning, recruiting momentum, and most importantly, peace of mind for the next 35 weeks.
"We're trying to regroup," Spurrier said. "We've got a good bunch of guys. Nobody's pointing fingers. We're a team. Win or lose as a team. I believe we'll get great effort this last game."