Growing up in Cheraw, Cliff Matthews viewed the South Carolina-Clemson game as his native state's version of the Super Bowl.
And the USC defensive end said it would take "a lot more" than a shoulder injury to keep him out of next weekend's Palmetto Bowl CVII.
Like what, exactly?
"A knee maybe," Matthews said.
Or a broken leg?
You get the point: Matthews might have to spend part of his Thanksgiving in the training room and wear a bulky brace under his shoulder pads, but the high-energy junior plans to be in the lineup against the Tigers.
Matthews, who is second on the team behind All-SEC linebacker Eric Norwood with six sacks and nine tackles for loss, dislocated his left shoulder in the first half at Tennessee on Oct. 31. He missed the Arkansas game but returned to play about 25 to 30 snaps last week in a 24-14 loss to No. 1 Florida.
Matthews had two tackles and a sack of Tim Tebow despite playing with a brace that makes him look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Though Matthews said the brace limits his range of motion but is not as restrictive as it appears.
"It really doesn't bother me," Matthews said. "It just looks like it does."
Matthews was in a yellow, noncontact jersey Tuesday during the first of three scheduled practices this week during the Gamecocks' open date.
"He just doesn't need to bump around with anybody," USC coach Steve Spurrier said.
At least not until noon on Nov. 28 when the 18th-ranked Tigers come calling. Clemson has won five in a row, scoring at least 38 points in every game of the winning streak, and features a couple of offensive playmakers in C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford who have competed on the Tigers' track team.
Facing that type of speed, it would be helpful for the Gamecocks to have a healthy Matthews, who is known for his relentless, backside pursuit. Matthews said he has been "doing all kind of exercises," including strengthening work with large rubber bands, to try to get close to 100 percent by Thanksgiving weekend.
The bye week could not have come at a better time.
"I got a week to do a lot of rehab and strengthen it," Matthews said. "That's a long time to get it well."
Defensive end Clifton Geathers had a monster game against the Gators with seven tackles, 1 1/2 sacks and 4 1/2 tackles for loss. If Matthews and Devin Taylor (bruised sternum) are full speed against Clemson, it would allow Melvin Ingram to return to his more natural position of defensive tackle.
Matthews is looking forward to having a crack at Spiller, who has rushed for an average of 110 yards in three games against the Gamecocks. With a couple of games in which he has gained 300-plus all-purpose yards, Spiller has made a late charge for the Heisman Trophy.
"That says a lot about any player being named on that list. I think he's a really good football player," Matthews said. "We're going to put together a really good game plan to keep him under control."
A week and a half before the Clemson game, the build-up for the state's Super Bowl has begun. Matthews would not miss it for the world.