South Carolina (6-5, 3-5 SEC) will host No. 23 Clemson (8-3, 6-2 ACC) Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium and look to win the Palmetto Bowl for the first time since 2013.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rivalry took a gap year in 2020, snapping a streak of 111 consecutive games. Nearly two years removed from the last time the two teams met, the anticipation has been building in Columbia.
"It's great to be right back in the middle of this rivalry. It's one of the great ones in all of college athletics," head coach Shane Beamer said at Tuesday's press conference. "I've been a part of the Egg Bowl in Mississippi, I've been a part of Oklahoma-Texas, Virginia-Virginia Tech, Georgia-Georgia Tech. This one is right up there at the top and I can't wait for Saturday night like always."
Beamer said the team will need a "great week of preparation" to face Clemson, which he described as a "big challenge."
Redshirt junior wide receiver Dakereon Joyner said the team won't be satisfied unless it beats Clemson.
"I think from the jump, we've always, we were going to be bowl-eligible ... It's not really a shocker to us, maybe to other people, but right now we're not complacent and we just want to continue to win, continue to progress forward," Joyner said.
It has been an uncharacteristic season for the Tigers, who will miss the College Football Playoff for the first time in six years.
Since losing to No. 18 Pittsburgh on Oct. 23, the tide has turned for Clemson. It is coming into this weekend on a four-game winning streak.
Replacing its offensive talent that left for the NFL has been a challenge for the Tigers, especially with the numerous injuries that have derailed the team.
Once considered the heir to replace top-overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence, sophomore quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei has underperformed this season, throwing for 1,960 yards and posting a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 9-8.
Hailing from California, Uiagalelei said he quickly found out what the rivalry means to the state of South Carolina.
"I just know it's a huge rivalry and it means a lot — it means a lot to (Clemson) here as a program, but it means a lot to a lot of people here in the state of South Carolina," he said at Monday's press conference. "It's a big part of why I want to come here, to be able to play in big rivalry games like this, but I just know this game means a lot to more than just me and more people than just the program. It's a very important game."
While the quarterback play has been subpar, sophomore running back Kobe Pace and freshman running back Will Shipley have became the heart and soul of Clemson's offense, as they have combined to rush for 1,082 yards and 14 touchdowns.
From a defensive standpoint, the Tigers have been phenomenal, leading the ACC in total defense. Additionally, the team has allowed 16.4 points-per-game, which will be an interesting matchup to watch as the Gamecock offense is heating up at the right time.
Against Auburn, South Carolina was able to find success running the ball as redshirt senior running back ZaQuandre White finished with 168 total yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, redshirt senior quarterback Jason Brown continued to shine, throwing three touchdown passes for 157 yards.
Although this week is different from any other, the team will continue to prepare the same way as it has all season, Joyner said.
"Our preparation never changes. We prepare the same way every single week," Joyner said. "Of course, it's rivalry week, but we treat this week the same."
South Carolina and Clemson will kick off at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. The game can be viewed on the SEC Network.