Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Worst Ever - Part II (USC)

In Part I of “The Worst Ever” we dug deep into our own past, found the bloodiest wounds, and compared battle scars. And by doing so, we determined this year’s Orange Bowl still hurts the worst.

But the pain is over. We served our sentence and now it’s time to turn our attention to our fowl-feathered friends. In this post, we’ll dig through their lustrious* past, find their bloodiest wounds, and compare their battle scars – in an effort to determine which loss still hurts the worst.

We will use similar criteria to Clemson’s analysis: Stake, Stage, Score, & Opponent.


Any loss stings, even when you’ve lost 21 in a row, but losing a game AND the chance for a special season makes it that much worse. When thinking of games where the results never came close to matching the stakes, three games come to mind:
  • 1984 Navy (38-21)
  • 2001 Florida (54-17)
  • 2010 Auburn (56-17)
In 1984 USC was having their best season - ever. They were 9-0, including a win over Florida State, and ranked #2 in the country. The Sugar Bowl wanted the Gamecocks, and would take them win or lose, if they would commit before playing Navy. The Orange Bowl also wanted the Gamecocks, as long as they were undefeated. USC declined the Sugar in hopes of the Orange. USC promptly lost to Navy and the light went out for both. And to this day, they’ve never been invited back to either.

In 2001, USC was 7-2 (5-2) with a chance to head to the SEC Championship Game. In preparation, USC organized a “Black Out” to try and push their team to victory. And things looked promising early as Florida looked rattled and they scored the game’s first points. They then led 10-3 before Florida answered with 44 straight points to silence the crowd and end USC’s chances at the division title.

In 2010, USC was able to get over the hump and win the SEC East Division Title and earned a chance to play undefeated Auburn and Cam Newton. The winner gets a BCS Bowl Bid, which USC had never played in. USC kept it close for a while, but in the end Auburn & Cam Newton totaled 56 points, the most ever in an SEC Championship Game, and won by 39, also a record.

When looking at the games, the Navy game is the cost USC the most while the Auburn game is the most lopsided. Winner – Navy, by a sailor’s cap.


The very thing that makes Clemson’s Orange Bowl loss so painful is not in play for USC - they’ve never been to a BCS Bowl. But they have played for an SEC Championship Game, which is a major accomplishment. Unfortunately, as we saw earlier, the game didn’t go well. And because this game remains the biggest game they’ve played, it also remains as the worst, with “Black Out” number two.


Let’s be honest – any game we are discussing will have a lopsided score. We don’t always remember the close games, but the blowouts stick in our minds forever. And the score is usually a major component.

In addition to the games mentioned earlier, 1988 versus Florida State (57-0), 1989 versus Clemson (45-0), and 2003 versus Clemson (63-17) also come to mind.

Of these, Florida State is the largest loss while the 2003 Clemson represents the most points given up. Similar to Clemson’s 70 point defensive effort against WVU, the shock value of 63 makes this game the winner. Plus 63-17 has a nice ring to it...


For Clemson, losses to Duke, Wake, Syracuse, & UNC hurt, about as much as losing to Vanderbilt. But those guys are all D-1A – and out of state. For USC, the loss to the Citadel in 1990 has to be one of their lowest moments.

But is it lower than losing to your arch rival? Is a three point loss at home to an instate D-1AA school worse than losing at home by 45 or 46 to your rival?

Ultimately, the Clemson losses may be worse in that they cost USC something – a bowl bid. In 1989, getting a bowl invitation was considered a big deal – and it would give USC an opportunity for their first bowl win. Similar to 1989, in 2003, USC needed one more win to become eligible. In both cases, they stayed home.


The Auburn loss was bad due to the stage and what was at stake. The Florida State game was the most lopsided. The Citadel loss was the most embarrassing.

But the worst loss? 2003 to Clemson. 63 points to your instate rival – at home. Bowden’s lip was quivering during a press conference when asked about job security. It’s the worst loss in the series, keeps you from bowling, and the memory of it hangs in your rival’s stadium.

Stay tuned for Part III as we determine which of these two losses: Clemson in the Orange Bowl or USC to Clemson in 2003 is crowned the worst of the worst.

*Surprisingly, illustrious is a word, but lustrious is not.  In this case, we assume it means opposite of illustrious and is synonymous with unremarkable

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