By now, everyone is aware that both Clemson University and the University of Alabama have kickass football teams, each with top-three Heisman Trophy finalists: Deshaun Watson and winner Derrick Henry, respectively. Ranked one-two in practically every poll since November 7, not even the BCS could have screwed up this epic matchup of what are hands down the best two college football teams in the country.
But what you’re probably not aware of until now is that this game poses a matchup of two extremely deep-rooted Southern, Greek life-friendly institutions — perhaps the most intriguing such national championship matchup of all time (intra-SEC West 2012 BCS Championship Game notwithstanding). Taking pride in all things chicken fried, honky tonk, and #TFM is imperative if you’re even in the same area code as these Southern Living staples.
Practically equidistant to Atlanta (the unofficial capital of the modern south), short stretches of I-20 and I-85 are the only things separating these two institutions largely defined by their football team’s success, who are meeting for the first time since the 2008 season opener in the Georgia Dome. The amount of Chevy Silverados full of coat-and-tie-wearing pledges holding down truck beds overloaded with cases of Natty Light on game days at both Bama and Clemson is hard to top anywhere else in the world. Nearly everyone associated with these schools takes no shame in their cultures’ history by casually rocking the Confederate Flag, which remains a largely socially acceptable bedroom decoration at both schools.
Basically, if you have ever once donned a Southern Traditions hat or drunkenly sang along to “Wagon Wheel,” this game is a wet dream come to life. Without further ado, breaking down the highly pertinent compare/contrast information between the cultures of Alabama and Clemson:
Adopted professional sports team
With both South Carolina and Alabama lacking major professional sports teams as states, fans dedicate their entire gridiron fandom to their school’s only-in-the-south historic, proud football programs — although there’s certainly been a steep increase in the relevance of dabbing black-and-baby-blue Cam Newton jerseys popping up in the South Carolina Upstate since early fall.
With nonexistent basketball cultures, college or pro, both schools’ students strut a platonic appreciation for the Atlanta Braves, with Turner Field being a two-and-a-half hour drive from either locale (give or take). Find me an entire fraternity chapter at either of these schools where not a single member owns a throwback Chipper Jones jersey-tee, and I’ll send you my next paycheck. Such an article of clothing is also the go-to top for any sorority girl on a dress down day during spring semester finals week, and I freaking love it.
Fast Food Heaven
While Birmingham-founded Jack’s is a somewhat obligatory fan favorite among Crimson Tide fans, I’ve never heard a single human being be anything other than particularly fond of Bojangles, a fast food chicken restaurant that is synonymous with good eats for all budget types in the Carolinas. With a scrumptious cajun filet biscuit available on Bojangles’ menu at all times, it’s hard not to give the advantage to the Clemson faithful on this one.
Does Dan Regester Think Your School Sucks?
Country Music Claims
It’s nearly impossible to have much legitimacy as a southern force to be reckoned with if you can’t claim any close ties to country music history. It’s a total non-negotiable.
With Hank Williams and the band Alabama to its name, Crimson Tide fans have perhaps the most honky tonk upbringings this side of Appalachia — albeit both of these legendary acts appeal much more to the parents of the current Bama students. For Clemson, despite actually being a Gamecock alum, Darius Rucker is the most universally beloved pop culture figure in the Palmetto State, regardless of football allegiances. Ask a Clemson student from Mt. Pleasant about his hometown, and he’ll go on for 10 minutes about how he once saw Hootie himself buying a gallon of milk at the neighborhood Publix. Impressive showings from both schools here.
Go-To Historic Formal Destination
No matter how cliché, having convenient classy cities for your fraternity formal is also a non-negotiable in this discussion. In my case, being stuck in central Kentucky means having the best drunken 300-dollar weekend of your semester in Fratlinburg, Tennessee, surrounded by a bunch of families (that, or a dreadful 12-hour drive nobody wants to do to Panama City Beach). My buddy at Central Florida says the one and only Daytona Beach is the first and last formal destination ever considered a remote possibility for their formals.
Members of the Greek life system at Alabama and Clemson are far more fortunate, however, as New Orleans and Charleston are manageable four-hour drives from both schools. Whether you’re drinking away your monthly allowance on Bourbon Street or by The Battery, those Instagram pictures with you and your date with a bright iPhone flash contrasting a pitch-black background sure do make everyone who wasn’t there temporarily jealous of what looks like the most fun a group of underaged drinkers could ever have.
Sororities Making Headline News
Last fall, Clemson ADPi Rachel Wyatt made a name for herself for becoming the flawless arm candy of Oklahoma’s Sugar-Bowl-MVP-turned-backup-QB Trevor Knight. I can only imagine how those two studs met, but good for them.
Making widespread headline news for no good reason last summer, Alabama’s Alpha Phi chapter got absolutely drilled for lacking character and values after putting together a “super racy” rush video on YouTube. Everyone and their mother had an opinion on the matter.
For those who still have their panties in a wad over the video’s reflection of southern sorority life, take pleasure in this: Both schools have annual dance marathons that raise several thousands of dollars per year for children’s cancer funds, and the top six fundraising teams in Alabama’s network are all sororities, like Phi Mu and Alpha Gamma Delta.
Whether they’re from the farms of southwestern Alabama or the ‘burbs of Birmingham, every single dude I’ve ever met from the state of Alabama has been a diehard Tide fan, and every single one of these dudes has had the same exact haircut — an unwritten rule that also applies to practically every Bama starting quarterback since at least the early 2000s.
This mysterious perfectly-straight-hair-only phenomenon has its fair share of moments in the Clemson demographic too, led by its loud-mouthed head coach Dabo Swinney. But let’s not forget that good ‘ol boy Dabo didn’t know anything other than being a lifelong Tide fanboy until after his 30th birthday. Born and raised in central Alabama, Clemson’s current leader was an Alabama assistant coach for eight years directly following his days as a walk-on receiver for them. I’m convinced there’s literally something in the state’s water making this happen.
Regardless, hair gel and/or curly hair is strongly frowned upon at both of these places. Engage with said crowds at your own risk, outsiders.
During the conference realignment craze of the early 2010s, there was a lot of bickering from the SEC world (including yours truly) about wanting to snag Clemson from the inferior ACC over the likes of Big 12 misfits Texas A&M and Mizzou. It’s the perfect fit geographically, and it could have provided some much needed depth to what has become a Charmin-soft SEC East.
Although much of said SEC world is still in disbelief about sharing a conference with a school in central Missouri, we should all celebrate the fact that two of the most southern, Greek-oriented schools in the country get to go head-to-head in what has become college’s version of the Super Bowl — something which would have never happened if that fan-proposed Clemson-to-the-SEC move went through.
To every whiskey-drinking, fried food-eating spectator tonight: Raise hell, praise Dale..