COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - If you grew up in South Carolina, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve been told to pick a side in the in-state rivalry.
Either you support Clemson or you side with USC. Junior linebacker TJ Brunson has seen the battle lines in the sand for as long as he can remember. The former Richland Northeast watched the rivalry unfold as family members chose garnet or orange.
“I’ve always watched this game with a split family household with my dad being a Carolina fan and my brother being a Clemson fan,” Brunson said. “I tended to side with my brother most of the time.”
Now, Brunson prepares to play in his third Palmetto Bowl and he understands how intense this rivalry can be for fans.
“Watching the game, there’s always a lot of talk leading up to it,” Brunson said. “Whoever wins has the bragging rights for the year. For me, it’s a regular game. I know it’s a rivalry game, but when you’re on the field, it’s a little bit different.”
For players who aren’t from South Carolina, it took time to understand how important the rivalry is to those from the Palmetto State. Now, they have a pretty clear picture of what it means as they head into the 116th meeting between these two programs.
“I’m from Florida,” said Gamecocks junior running back AJ Turner. “I know a lot of these South Carolina guys take this real serious. During this week, there are some guys doing their own stuff. You’ve just got to take that into consideration that other people care a lot about this game. I definitely care about this game. With them caring that much more, I feel like I have to care that much more as well so we can make sure we ensure the [win].”
Emotions can get pretty high in this rivalry game. However, Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp said his players have to remain composed if they hope to have success and end their current four-game winning streak.
“You’ve just got to keep your composure,” Muschamp said. “It’s going to be an emotional game. Anytime that you have a familiarity with your opponent, which we do obviously, and a lot of carryover and crossover within the state, you’ve got to keep your composure. We had a couple situations last year where we lost our composure in a couple critical situations, keeping the drive alive, and then an offsetting penalty where we retaliated to a situation we shouldn’t have. At the end of the day, you have to keep your composure and don’t hurt your football team.”
South Carolina will face Clemson at Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
“I know a lot of guys are from South Carolina and people get real emotional about this game,” Gamecocks running back AJ Turner said. “I know there’s going to be some stuff. Some things are going to happen. Some plays are going to be made. They’re going to be real emotional. So, we’ve just got to handle that in the best way possible.