I’d be hard pressed to come up with single week of the calendar year that I enjoy more than Thanksgiving week. As if valuable time with family and old friends as well as the always-delicious Thursday meal wasn’t enough, I get to snack on leftovers the rest of the weekend before heading to the site of the Clemson vs Carolina game.
The Hall family thanksgiving is always fun as we are a family divided. After suffering through five straight years of having to be silent from 2009-2013, I’m very much so looking forward to a five-peat of my own if the Tigers are able to take care of business Saturday night under the lights of Death Valley.
For me, Thanksgiving with the family and attending the Palmetto Bowl— as we call it in South Carolina—goes together like mashed potatoes and gravy. Rivalry football, family/friends and excessive calories….what more could a man want?
I unfortunately saw my overall Palmetto Bowl streak snapped last season, which would have made 10-straight Clemson-SC games I had attended. At the last minute, I elected to stay home with family to watch the game and not make the trip to Williams Brice Stadium in Columbia.
One personal streak is still kicking and on the table this year however as I haven’t missed a Palmetto Bowl in Death Valley since 2002. That just so happens to be right around the time when I truly began attending games on a regular basis from season to season.
My uncle, Hollis Hall, is a former Clemson cornerback and starter on the 1981 National Championship team. He was in town with his family last year and I stayed back to enjoy the festivities with them, as they don’t make it to the South Carolina very often. He is one of the main reasons for my loyalty and fandom towards the Orange and White, so it was only fitting that I make an exception to miss the game in person.
Sure, I grew up in the shadows of Clemson University and have always been a guy to support the home team. But without that personal connection to the team and hearing about his glory days growing up (I didn’t arrive on the scene until nearly 11 years following the championship season), there’s no telling whom I would be pulling for these days.
While I enjoy my share of family time, turkey sandwiches and afternoon naps, there are a few games I’ll be keeping an eye on this weekend.
Clemson vs South Carolina
They say you should throw out the record books and stats when it comes to rivalry games. But the fact of the matter is--from top to bottom--the Tigers are the far better program right now.
Anything can happen and that is why we play the game in the first place but I would be shocked if the Tigers aren’t at least a 20-point favorite when Vegas sets the line on this one Monday morning.
Two years ago when Carolina visited Clemson for a prime time showdown, the Tigers ran all over the Gamecocks en route to a 56-7 thumping. We could be in for round two of that this time around with the Tigers appearing to be a far more complete team than the very talented squad that took the field that evening.
Clemson will be hunting the fifth straight win in the series and attempt to put this one to bed early and begin resting the starters for the ACC Championship next weekend. I see Carolina maybe keeping this one relatively close early with perhaps a big play on defense or a special teams score via Deebo Samuel. In the end though, under the lights of Death Valley, Clemson will eventually pull away.
Auburn vs Alabama
This one will probably be over by halftime. Auburn has rode shotgun on a roller coaster season. They defeated Washington in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff game. From there they fell short by a single point to LSU, dropped a 23-9 contest to Mississippi State and fell to Tennessee at home (30-24). They defeated Texas A&M, 28-24, but fell to Georgia last week, 27-10. Alabama on the other hand has cruised through its schedule with ease and looked all the part of a repeat national champion to this point. Auburn knocked off the Tide last season in Jordan-Hare Stadium so you can bet Alabama will be ready to return the favor this season as they continue pursuit of a perfect season.
Michigan vs Ohio State
Historically, this one is always interesting and has national implications and the same holds true this year as both look to cling to seat around the college football playoff dinner table. The hate between these two is real and with all that will be on the line I would suspect things will be even more heated come Saturday. I always thought it was humorous how a few of my (THE) Ohio State alumus professors at Presbyterian College made sure to never even say “The M word” because it was just that serious.
I’d like to think Ohio State wins this one but I keep having flashbacks of Purdue dragging them up and down the field. The Wolverines really need this one seeing as they lost the head-to-head battle with Notre Dame. The Irish are creeping around with no conference title game hoping to snag that no. 3 or no. 4 playoff spot. This is a toss up but I think the Buckeyes prevail in the horseshoe in this high noon showdown. Mostly because I’m still not buying the narrative that Michigan is legit and can win a big-time game.
Tennessee vs Vanderbilt
Obviously this one won’t gain much national attention and maybe not even so much within the SEC but it is without a doubt quite important in these neck of the woods.
For head coach Jeremy Pruitt’s first season, the Vols have looked well at times but at other times they’ve been very dreadful to watch. However, I believe they are definitely trending in the right direction. I don’t know what to think of Vanderbilt. They played Notre Dame, Florida, Kentucky and Missouri tight but their best win is a 45-31 cross-division triumph over Arkansas…the Razorbacks are just a very bad team to put it plainly. Expect plenty of orange and eventually a fair amount of aluminum by the time we’re midway through the second half Saturday in Nashvegas.