The late Southern humorist Lewis Grizzard once jovially referred to Clemson as “Auburn with a lake.” And truth be told, he was right on the money. Auburn and Clemson have more similarities than we do with most of our SEC comrades. Why don’t you go see Clemson (the town and the University) for yourself when the Tigers take on the Tigers (see what I mean?) on Sept. 17?
First off, the two campuses greatly resemble one another. Clemson’s iconic Tillman Hall was designed by the same architect who designed Samford Hall, and man do they look eerily similar. Clemson, sitting in the northwest corner of the state, was also founded as South Carolina’s main agricultural school. Some of its most popular programs you will also find attracting students on Auburn’s campus, including agriculture, forestry, architecture and engineering.
Clemson has around 15,500 undergraduates, sizably smaller than Auburn’s 20,000. The town of Clemson is also smaller, only adding 11,000 to the population, while Auburn residents number around 35,000. However, like Auburn, Clemson is incorporated into a greater metropolitan area.
In the rich history of Southern football, Auburn and Clemson are like second cousins by marriage who skip the mish mash and call each other brothers. Clemson football, after all, owes much of its start to Auburn. Walter Riggs was a member of Auburn’s first football team in 1892, and four years later, he left to start a football program in Clemson, 232 miles northeast of the plains.
As legend has it, Riggs, low on funds and resources, “borrowed” some of Auburn’s old practice uniforms for the new team. According to writer W.J. Lane Sr., the navy jerseys had faded from the washboard washings and resembled a dingy LSU purple, but the orange jerseys had retained their original color. Therefore he made orange the Tigers’ (looks like he borrowed that too) dominant color with purple (err, faded navy) as the accompanying color.
Auburn remains the leader in the century-long series, 34-11-2 (we’ve won the past 14) after last year’s overtime thriller in Jordan-Hare. Our own Tigers rallied from a 17-3 deficit at halftime to score 21 unanswered points in the third quarter. However, if you remember, in overtime it all came down to a redo from Clemson’s kicker, Chandler Catanzaro. He nailed a 27-yarder, but was forced to kick again after a penalty. The second kick hooked left, giving Auburn its third win of many for the 2010 season. The Clemson Tigers, on the other hand, finished unranked with their first losing season (6-7) since 1998.
Another thrilling matchup is in the queue for 2011. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has brought in offensive coordinator Chad Morris, a Gus Malzahn disciple who prefers an up-tempo, no-huddle attack. Like Auburn, Clemson will also have rookies swooning the field on defense. It will be a battle of will for these two young teams that you won’t want to miss!
The Palmetto Auburn Club will also be hosting an away-game tailgate the morning before the game. The southern hospitality at Clemson will rein the same, and the fans seem to be friendlier than other fan bases (cough cough, Alabama and LSU). The campus’ similar beauty is enticing, as are the popular South Carolina Botanical Garden and Lake Hartwell, each located on campus. Moreover, Clemson lays claim to “the most exciting 25 seconds in college football” where the team runs down “The Hill” before the start of each game. While it originally started out of practicality before Memorial Stadium’s west stands were built, today it’s just tradition. Fans hear “Your Clemson Tigers!” from the announcer and a canon fire as the team runs down the hill.
But when they run down the hill on Sept. 17, they will be running towards an Auburn team young in age, but wise beyond its years when it comes to passion and the will to win.
War Eagle, and I hope to see you all in Clemson!