Originally created 11/18/99

It's time for the battle of the Palmetto state



Sports' newest game show comes to Columbia this Saturday. You may have seen the futuristic episodes, you know, the ones with the space craft studio, the dimming spotlights and the host on speed.

It's called Who Wants to Win The Hearts of the Palmetto State?

Questions come in the form of four 15-minute quarters, the level of difficulty increasing on each alternate possession and with the growing frustrations of 80,000 folks inside Williams-Brice Stadium factored in.

There will be two contestants this game, one dressed head-to-toe in orange, the other top-to-bottom in garnet. No penalties, though, for poor choice of clothing colors.

At stake is not a million dollars as first advertised, though if you'd want to quantify what 365 days of bragging rights amount to, the dollar totals and constant snickering at the rival could creep to seven figures.

Should the Upstate folks win, as most believe they will, there's a nice all-expense vacation to Atlanta to compete in the season's final contest. The dangling carrot for the Midlands folks isn't quite as rich; a win only erases the potential for historical ignominy that 0-11 brings.

Embarrassment, questions and second-guessing await the loser; not exactly the greatest parting gifts. A year ago, this game served as the final one for Tommy West and Brad Scott, so penalties can be severe.

Now that we understand the rules and the rewards, let's meet the contestants:

South Carolina's horse and buggy gets steered by Lou Holtz, a man who returned from a two-year coaching sabbatical looking to improve on his 216 total wins. Ten games, six quarterbacks, 16 offensive linemen and a couple of personal head-on confrontations with the dreaded Chicken Curse, Holtz remains at 216 and questioning his sanity.

It's hard to combat injuries, especially when your roster is broom-handle thin. This led to a trying four-month run, with questions going unanswered, with hopes going unfulfilled, with end zones going untarnished.

Holtz needs to use his name to find players the next three seasons or else this reclamation project will be someone else's boondoggle soon. He also might want to consider a change of attack to more of a millennium offense.

Question: When will South Carolina actually end its 20-game losing streak? Answers: A) Saturday; B) Sometime next century; C) When they drop into the Southern Conference; D) You're joking, right?

Clemson's spacely sprockets offense, engineered by Tommy Bowden, gave the Tigers a puncher's chance in a season where they replaced all five of their offensive linemen. Forget about enduring through a rebuilding campaign. Bowden found himself a quarterback, and a wide-open style, for the future.

Three of Clemson's five losses have come to top-12 teams, all by three points. A road loss at Virginia Tech scared the Hokies for three quarters. Imagine if the Tigers had a field goal kicker; the Peach Bowl might not be their final destination.

As Georgia Tech, Virginia and N.C. State all graduate integral parts, Clemson looks to become the ACC's newest team on the rise, the next challenger to the Seminoles' throne.

Question: To what can the Tigers claim their success this season? Answer: A) The play of Brandon Streeter/Woodrow Dantzler; B) Defensive pressure from Keith Ellis; C) Tommy Bowden's offensive go-go ingenuity; D) Tommy West no longer employed.

These two programs meet for the 90th time Saturday, each player looking to be the next Jerry Butler, the next Todd Ellis. As the century concludes, the questions only get trickier. Each program is looking for its final answers.

Reach Rick Dorsey at (706) 823-3219.