Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Worst Ever - Part III (Final)

The debate of “The Worst Ever” has raged on long enough and it’s time to bring it to a close. I’m not sure there is a definitive winner, or in this case loser, as shown by the 50-50 breakdown of votes in our poll. But we set out to find a loser, so one needs to be chosen.

To determine the worst loss for Clemson and Carolina, we used four criteria: Stakes, Stage, Score, & Opponent. We will once again use those four tests to determine who wins.

Stake

In this case, the stakes for the two games are nearly incomparable. For Clemson, they were playing in a BCS Bowl game viewed by over 5 million people, with very little TV competition opposing them.

For USC, they were playing their rival on the same day as Michigan-Ohio State, USC-UCLA, the Iron Bowl, and the Apple Cup. That game was just one of many involving rivals.

But to Clemson’s credit, their game was a glorified exhibition, with nothing more at stake than pride for both teams. But for USC, a win would make them bowl eligible, give them extra practice, put Bowden’s future in jeopardy, and give them wins against their rival in two of the last three games.

Both teams lost – on the scoreboard, their pride, and their respect. But Clemson’s loss followed an ACC Championship while USC’s kept them home for the holidays.

Score: USC 1 – Clemson 0

Stage

As mentioned above, Clemson’s game was on a much bigger stage. They were playing in their first BSC Bowl Game, their first Orange Bowl since their National Championship, and representing the ACC as their champ for the first time in over 20 years. The game was on ESPN, showcased by their NFL Monday Night Football crew, and witnessed by over 5 million people.

The national media enjoyed the jokes at Clemson’s expense and every preseason scouting report lists the defense as a major question mark.

For USC, they were playing at home with a chance to go bowling. The game was televised – on the Deuce, but only viewed by those with a vested interest, which ended up being in USC's favor.

Score: Clemson 1 – USC 1

Score

Comparing the scores, or in this case, which team fared the worst, is the ole tallest midget in the room contest. One team lost by 37. The other 46. One team gave up 70. The other 63. One team gave up the most points in bowl history. The other the most points in rivalry history.

Both are bad – real bad.

Score: Clemson 1 – USC 1

Opponent

Clemson was facing the co-Big East Champ in West Virginia, which means they were on par with Cincinnati & Louisville. Clemson was the undisputed ACC Champ with 10 wins, including four over ranked teams. And coming into this game, Clemson was favored by 3.

USC was 5-6 and playing against a bowl eligible Clemson team with seven wins, including a recent upset of #3 FSU. The FSU win was followed by a trouncing of Duke, and following this game, Clemson would go on to defeat a Top 10 Tennessee team in the Peach Bowl to cap “The Finish”. Despite Clemson having the better record, the recent wins, and the historical advantage, USC was still a slight home favorite.

Clemson ran into the one type of team they can’t defend while USC ran into a Clemson team with momentum for the first time in three years.

Score: Clemson 2 – USC 2

Summary

So how do you compare the ACC Champs getting rolled by the co-Big East Champs to a 5-6 USC team getting beat by a fragile Clemson team?

You can’t. You can’t compare the two and come up with a logical argument where all parties agree.

USC fans will always have the Orange Bowl as fodder for Clemson fans just as Clemson fans can always keep 63-17 in their back pockets for USC fans.

For me, right now, the Orange Bowl hurts worse. It is still the most recent, the number 70 resonates nationwide, and the grand stage is hard to swallow.

However, with the success of the recruiting class, freshman reporting, and the beginning of fall practice, the pain is slowly washing away. And as it washes away, it becomes just a piece of the puzzle that is the history of Clemson football.

And another of those pieces is “The Finish”, anchored by the 63-17 thrashing of USC.

In the near future, the Orange Bowl will turn into a lost battle while 63-17 will be the war that Clemson won.

And until USC fans can pull to the shoulder of I-95 and take a photo like this, they will always have the worse loss.


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