Dabo Swinney has plenty of experience with the Alabama-Auburn rivalry, as well as Clemson-South Carolina.
Swinney spent 13 seasons either playing or coaching in the Iron Bowl for Alabama, and he is set to coach in the Clemson-USC game for the 15th time Saturday night in Columbia.
There is no doubt that the matchup between Alabama and Auburn is more nationally known, and the Iron Bowl usually has bigger implications, but as far as intensity and emotion, Swinney said during his Tuesday press conference that the two rivalries are extremely similar.
“I lived in Alabama for 33 years and that’s all I knew. Zero difference in this state. Zero,” Swinney said. “Year round that’s all people talk about. It’s just different logos, but it’s the same type of intensity, emotion.”
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Swinney got his first taste of the South Carolina-Clemson rivalry in 2003 when he was hired as the Tigers wide receivers coach and went out recruiting. He was given the Pee Dee area and quickly learned that the state is divided.
“I didn’t have a clue. I didn’t know anything about the state of South Carolina… And I quickly figured it out,” Swinney said. “Everywhere I went people were either really happy to see me or they just kind of looked at me like I had a big wart on my nose… I would just say, ‘Hey, I’m the guy from Clemson.’ It didn’t take me long to figure out that this rivalry is as intense as there is anywhere in the country.”
Swinney said the Gamecocks-Clemson rivalry is underappreciated nationally, but he believes that has started to change lately.
South Carolina’s program was taken to new heights under Steve Spurrier as the Gamecocks won 11 games three years in a row. USC enters Saturday’s game 8-3 after a second place finish in the SEC East.
Clemson has played for the national title the past two years and is two wins away from returning to the College Football Playoff.
“The Alabama-Auburn game, there’s been a lot of top ranking type matchups where you win the division or a chance to go play in the conference (title game), well we’re in different conferences so there’s a little difference there,” Swinney said. “But I think a lot of that has changed over the last nine years.
“Obviously where we’ve been as a program and the run that they went on and the implications that were involved, it’s a game that I think everybody pays attention to now maybe more than they did nine years ago, and I think that’s great. I really do. I think that means we’re doing some good things.”