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From the Archives: Why Tomorrow's Game Matters

In last night's head-to-head comparison of Georgia and South Carolina, I included a link to Paul Westerdawg's smack talk breakdown, which garnered some scintillating comments from South Carolina fans.

These ill-informed, childish, and often offensive insults reminded me why I take tomorrow's game so seriously. A year ago, at my old weblog, I expressed my thoughts about the following day's S.E.C. showdown in the Classic City between the 'Dawgs and the 'Cocks and, although I was quite wrong about the Red and Black's margin of victory, I got this much right:

I have a confession to make.

I dislike the South Carolina Gamecocks out of all proportion to their significance.

I mean, I don't dislike South Carolina the way I dislike Florida, Auburn, and Georgia Tech or anything, but the Gators, the Plainsmen, and the Yellow Jackets are all longstanding Georgia rivals who have won their fair share of games against the 'Dawgs, who pose a threat to the Red and Black year in and year out, and who have lengthy traditions as athletic institutions.

South Carolina, though, irks me in a way a team that loses to Georgia that often shouldn't be able to irk me.

The Bulldogs' all-time record against the Gamecocks is 42-13-2. The 'Dawgs have dominated the Southeastern U.S.C. in the Classic City (where Georgia has posted a 24-6 record against its division rival), fared pretty well in Columbia (where the Red and Black are 17-7-2), and won the one neutral site game in series history (a 10-5 victory in Augusta in 1901).

Georgia has won slightly more than three-fourths of all the games the 'Dawgs have ever played against South Carolina and the Palmetto State Poultry have defeated the Red and Black four fewer times than the Vanderbilt Commodores have.

I respect the South Carolina program. I respect what Lou Holtz did there (before he retired, went to work for E.S.P.N., and started talking crazier than Ross Perot) and I take the Gamecocks seriously as an opponent. I credit the U.S.C. faithful for the way they have risen to the occasion against what have virtually always been more talented Bulldog squads.

What I can't stand, though, is the skewed perspective with which the fans of the Palmetto State Poultry view the world.

As I noted in my postings from July 9 and September 8, the Gamecocks have no winning tradition whatsoever.

They have captured one conference championship in their whole history, back in the pre-Boston College, pre-Virginia Tech, pre-Miami, pre-Florida State, even pre-Georgia Tech A.C.C. The year South Carolina finished first in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Gamecocks lost to Georgia, 41-16.

South Carolina's first bowl win came at the end of the 1994 campaign. The best back-to-back seasons in U.S.C. history were 2000 and 2001, when the Big Chickens went 17-7. No other S.E.C. school considers a 17-7 run "the glory days"---not even Vanderbilt, where the Commodores went 49-6-3 between 1901 and 1907.

The one significant laurel ever bestowed upon a Gamecock player was George Rogers's 1980 Heisman Trophy, which was as bogus a Heisman as ever was awarded. (Given the track record of the Heisman Trophy, that is saying something.)

Rogers was a senior in 1980, the year Herschel Walker burst onto the scene as a freshman. The Goal Line Stalker clearly was the better player, but, because Herschel was an underclassman (and only for that reason), the award went to George Rogers instead.

Besides, George Rogers was a Georgia native and, the year he won the Heisman, the Gamecocks' running backs coach was Ray Goff, a Moultrie native, a former Bulldog quarterback, and a future Georgia head coach. If South Carolina didn't recruit players from the Peach State and hire coaches from the Bulldogs, they'd have nothing to show for a hundred-odd years of football.

When South Carolina went to hire a Florida State offensive coordinator as the Gamecocks' head coach, they got Brad Scott. When Georgia went to hire a Florida State offensive coordinator as the Bulldogs' head coach, we got Mark Richt.

After Lou Holtz went 8-4 at South Carolina in 2000, he could've been elected governor. After Jim Donnan went 8-4 at Georgia in 2000, he was fired.

Despite their complete lack of history and tradition, however, the Gamecock faithful crow like that annoying Godzilla screech they play over the Williams-Brice Stadium loudspeakers every time something good happens for South Carolina. The trash talk U.S.C. fans dish out whenever the 'Cocks claim a victory over the 'Dawgs is ten times worse than any garbage I ever had to listen to from a Tennessee fan, even during the Volunteers' nine-game winning streak over Georgia.

The fact that the Gamecocks' fans are insufferable out of all proportion to their level of achievement has always caused my attitude towards playing South Carolina to be about like my attitude towards playing Georgia Tech: I don't want to beat them because I derive any particular pleasure from beating them; I want to beat them so I don't have to hear about it if we don't.

Go 'Dawgs!