Their offensive styles are dissimilar and so are their records, but when South Carolina and Missouri do battle in the third-ever Hall of Fame Classic in Birmingham, it will be a game between kindred souls.
In addition to both teams coming from towns named Columbia, the Gamecocks and Tigers have something else in common—controversy. South Carolina, which had its first eight-victory season since 1903, has survived a season-long squabble between Coach Jim Carlen and the local media, along with a briefer beef between Carlen and the school administration. For its part, Missouri has been rapped by fans for accepting a bowl bid at the conclusion of a mediocre season. If that weren't bad enough, the Tigers then threatened to boycott the Hall of Fame Classic over a dispute about the accommodations, or lack of same, for the team and the school band.
Similar character-building experiences may help each team to "overcome adversity," as they say in football. For the Tigers, the main adversity will be a South Carolina running game headed by George Rogers, the nation's second-leading ground-gainer, and his offensive line, known as the Moving Company.
A 6'2", 210-pound junior tailback, Rogers was named to the AP first-team All-America after he gained 1,548 yards on 286 carries and was held to less than 100 yards in only one game. Carlen compares Rogers to Earl Campbell, and on this point at least the South Carolina press is in accord with the coach. It has been beating the drums to establish Rogers as a 1980 Heisman Trophy candidate.
As good as Rogers is. South Carolina's attack is too run oriented to tame the Tigers, who are a far better team than their record indicates. Missouri barely lost (24-22) to Oklahoma and turned down a chip-shot field-goal try that might have earned a tie with Nebraska. In trying to stop Rogers, Missouri will be dealing from strength—its rushing defense. On offense. Quarterback Phil Bradley passes well enough to keep the Gamecock defense honest, which should be enough for a Tiger win.
Baylor (7-4) vs. Clemson (8-3)
For a game whose existence has been threatened by poor attendance in recent years, the Peach Bowl has created a strange attraction in hopes of filling 60,456-seat Fulton County Stadium. Touchdowns are supposed to sell tickets, but defenses are likely to dominate the matchup in Atlanta between Clemson and Baylor. If the promise of hard tackling and close competition is a good selling point, however, this edition of the Peach Bowl should be a sellout, even if neither team figures to-score in double digits.
Clemson and Baylor are two of the surprises of the '79 season, and neither is likely to be far from victory if it maintains its habit of yielding points sparingly. However, Clemson, which gave up only 92 points and eight touchdowns during the regular season, also has a moderately potent offense that should be enough to assure the Tigers their second-straight bowl victory.
The Tigers were expected to rebuild this year after Quarterback Steve Fuller and Split End Jerry Butler, among others, graduated to the NFL, but the defense and the solid kicking of Punter Dave Sims and Placekicker Obed Ariri enabled Clemson to win eight games. The Tigers' defense is led by Jim Stuckey, a 6'5", 241-pound All-America tackle, and Bubba Brown, a rangy, 210-pound linebacker. Middle Guard Charlie Bauman, who appeared as Woody Hayes' sparring partner after making a fourth-quarter interception of an Ohio State pass in the 1978 Gator Bowl, is a tough defender, too.
Baylor has rebounded from its 3-8 record of last season to gain its first bowl bid since 1974 chiefly because its defense only once has allowed an opponent's offense to score more than two touchdowns. That opponent happened to be Alabama. The Bears' stalwarts are Mike Singletary. an All-America linebacker who set a school record with 517 tackles during his three-season career, and 6'4", 210-pound End Andy Melontree, who, says Coach Grant Teaff, "is the best pass rusher I've ever had."