Originally posted on Crystal Ball Run  |  Last updated 11/27/11

Think back for a moment. Not far back, just four weeks ago. The 8-0 Clemson team that was once sitting pretty, highly ranked and with national championship on the mind, turned out to be more Fox than Tiger.

Four weeks ago, Clemson was just that; undefeated – and sitting in a perfect position at 8-0, ranked sixth nationally. A win is a win – it always will be – however, when you see 8-0, you gloss over something of supreme importance; many things, actually. We all were duped.

The Division 1-AA (Yes, I still call it that) Wofford Terriers played Clemson to the end before losing by 8. A mediocre Auburn team gave Clemson fits before faltering down the stretch, losing 38-24. Florida State who played without six offensive starters, including its starting quarterback, played Clemson within 5 points – in Clemson, a very tough place to play. Looking back over the Tigers' wins, the one that pops out is the 23-3 Clemson victory – on the road – versus Virginia Tech. What many fail to realize is that Hokie quarterback Logan Thomas was not at full strength, nor were Virginia Tech's wide receivers. Moving ahead to Maryland, it took a second half rally by Clemson to pull that one out, 56-45. Clemson then hit the proverbial wall in Atlanta against Georgia Tech, and if it were not for blunder after blunder by Wake Forest, Clemson would be sitting in a much worse situation.

For  now though, Clemson – which was once undefeated – now finds itself 9-3 following a 34-13 loss to its in-state rivals, the South Carolina Gamecocks (10-2, 6-2 SEC).

Not since the 1960s has Clemson lost three straight to the Gamecocks. For as much progress as Clemson had appeared to make, the Tigers have regressed in a hurry.

Coach Dabo Swinney said in the postgame aftermath: “We had as good a week of practice as we had all year. I never saw this coming. I really expected us to play our best game. This is the lowest of lows. We are not playing very smart right now. You are just sick to your stomach”

That sums it up quite nicely.

Clemson was dominated on both sides of the ball. Dabo admitted that his coaching staff knew what was coming from South Carolina. The problem was that the Tigers had no answer.

On one side you had a quarterback, Conner Shaw, and a South Carolina team that was playing inspired football. On the other side, Clemson as a whole seemed uninspired.

South Carolina rushed for 211 yards on Clemson, led by Shaw, who had 108. Kenny Miles – who made Clemson pay a year ago in this same matchup – reappeared with a vengeance on Saturday night, rushing for 71 yards himself.

As lethal as Shaw was on the ground, Clemson did not do much to slow him down through the air either. Shaw was 14-of-20 passing for 210 yards versus Clemson with 3 touchdowns. South Carolina held the ball for over 37 minutes.

The much talked about and once-resurgent Clemson offense has been halted. A team once clinging to a dream has now been reeled back and lowered to a familiar feeling. Clemson only managed 153 yards on 60 plays. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd continued his woeful ways, going 11-of-29 for just 83 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Both Clemson and South Carolina entered Saturday in hopes of getting win number ten. Carolina – which gained win number ten against its rival – last reached the magic number in a year that was coined “Black Magic”, 1984. Clemson last got to the ten-win plateau over twenty years ago, in 1990.

One is now left to wonder, with Virginia Tech on the horizon and a bowl game to follow: Will Clemson make it to number ten? If ten is the plateau, it is safe to say Clemson has already seen its peak. It now resides in a valley. Death Valley.

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