Ask any Gamecock fan and they will tell you that their number one rival is Clemson. However, if you ask them which school would rank second on the list, it becomes a little more difficult to pinpoint. Many schools have several rivals.
Georgia comes to mind as a school that has several rivalries, and that may be a testament to just how disliked the Bulldogs and their fans are to other schools. Their list consists of: Georgia Tech, Auburn, Tennessee, and Florida. Then schools like South Carolina and Clemson may also be considered by Bulldog fans. It isn’t a stretch to think that UGA would fall second on many Gamecock fan’s list.
Others might slide Tennessee in there or even some of the old timers might feel North Carolina should occupy that spot. Unless you are a Gamecock fan living in Raleigh, NC, the Wolfpack isn’t going to spark much debate. A look into the series numbers, and it may be time that NC State appears more often on that list.
Where Does NC State Rate as a South Carolina Rival?
South Carolina and NC State spent many years together in the ACC. While the conference has always been basketball-crazy, the fan bases of these two institutions find more passion in their grid iron teams. Even after South Carolina left the ACC in the early 1970’s, the two teams continued to meet on the football field annually up until South Carolina joined the SEC in 1992. In fact, South Carolina has only played four schools more often than the 52 times they have faced NC State (Clemson 108, Georgia 64, Wake Forrest 56, and North Carolina 55). Once you figure in the relative closeness of the two schools, it seems fitting they should play more frequently.
How competitive have the two teams been when they have matched up? Remarkably close in several categories. The Gamecocks hold a slim 25-24-3 lead in the overall series. In the last 20 match ups that stretches back to 1975, the series is deadlocked at 10 wins each. Digging deeper into the numbers, you see that these two teams are separated by a sliver. The Gamecocks have outscored the Wolfpack in the all-time series 878 to 851. That is correct, over the course of 102 years and 52 games, the two teams are only 27 points apart. Another interesting stat is that in the series, the Gamecocks have averaged 16.9 points per a game and the Wolfpack have countered with 16.4. They are literally separated by .5 points per a game.
For two schools to have such a strong rivalry, it has to be about more than proximity and numbers. It must have a personality of sorts; players, coaches, and games certainly add to the intensity. In 1986, the Gamecocks headed to Raleigh with a 2-4-1 record to take on the 6-1-1 and 15th ranked Wolfpack.
In what became known as the “Clock Keeper Game” to Gamecock fans, NC State escaped with a 23-22 win that had all types of interesting events at the end, including a hail Mary pass for a TD after a Wolfpack wide receiver pushed down a Gamecock defender. An official in the shot is seen reaching for his flag before he seemingly remembers the game is in Raleigh and heads for the locker room.
The following year in 1987, the Pack arrived in Columbia to see Gamecock fans proudly sporting their traditional round black stickers that say “Beat NC State” or whoever the opponent may be for that week, but on these stickers, they had added a clock around the outside. The Gamecocks behind their “Black Death” defense pounded NC State 48-0. In 1988, the infamous pistol-firing game by Todd Ellis after the fans had been on him hard throughout. Late in the game after a TD pass, Ellis turned to the crowd and fired his hands like pistols. The football gods must not have appreciated the pistols, because in 1989 against NC State, Ellis went down with a season-ending injury.
Lou Holtz came to South Carolina in 1999. He had been the head coach at NC State from 1972 to 1975. His first game in the black and garnet was on the road at the school that gave him first major college coaching job. Not only was South Carolina coming off a 1-10 season under former head coach Brad Scott in 1998, but the Gamecocks arrived at Carter Finley Stadium to find themselves in the middle of Hurricane Dennis. The game was played in heavy rain and gusting winds all night long. The 24th ranked Pack prevailed in the game 10-0. Finally, in 2008, the Gamecock defense almost beheaded future NFL star Russell Wilson in a 34-0 shellacking of the Wolfpack that knocked Wilson out of the game and saw NC State only manage 138 yards of total offense.
On September 2nd in Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, the Gamecocks and Wolfpack will get together yet again in this often-overlooked rivalry. The neutral site location and the high hopes of both fan bases should make it an exciting game. The experts are predicting a close game with NC State being favored by around a touchdown. If history is any indication of the outcome, take the Gamecocks and the points and expect a closer than 7-point affair.