Military ranks swell with Tiger, Gamecock pride

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Football fever among many South Carolina National Guard soldiers is as hot as the blowtorch heat of the Afghan desert.

Predictions of winning seasons and conference titles are rampant as many of the 1,800 troops of the 218th Brigade Combat Team look forward to their team's opening-day kickoffs.

The best part about football season, they say, is it will give the S.C. troops something to look forward to every Saturday for the next three months.

"College football season is going to make the fall pass a lot quicker," said Sgt. Eric Cannon of Newberry, a Clemson fan.

"Or a lot slower," cracked Sgt. Hershel Scruggs, a Gamecock backer from Gaffney.

The biggest worry among the troops is whether they'll get to see their favorite teams on TV. However, the Armed Forces Network, available in Afghanistan, offers a selection of live national telecasts and replays.

Clemson fans know they will be able to see the Tigers' Monday-night opener against Florida State. But because Afghanis- tan is eight time zones away from Death Valley, reveille for Tiger fans will be 4:30 a.m. Tuesday to catch the kickoff.

"We'll be up in the office early watching it," said Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Seaford, a Tiger fan from York. "I'll just skip my morning workout and watch football."

If they can't watch the games, the troops hope to listen to their teams' games via Internet sports services like Yahoo.

Gamecock fan Scruggs bought a Sling Box, which allows his laptop to connect via the Internet to the digital TV receiver at his home in Gaffney. "It'll work if we can get a fast enough Internet connection."

Forget the war. Let's talk about football. Predictions from some of the 1,800 S.C. National Guard troops in Afghanistan about the upcoming USC and Clemson football seasons:

The USC fans say ...

Spc. Charles Rhodes, Greenwood

Outlook: "It's our year. We'll go 10-2. The two games that are bothering me are at Tennessee and Arkansas. What gets me is that Arkansas is the luckiest dadgum football team at home I've ever watched."

USC vs. Clemson: Gamecocks, 42-10

Staff Sgt. Scott Sorgee, Greenville

Outlook: "It will be more like eight or nine wins. I'm not sure we'll hit the championship game this year, but I think it will be very close."

USC vs. Clemson: "It doesn't matter to me if Carolina loses every game as long as they beat Clemson." Gamecocks, 24-10

Spc. Jim Brigman, Lexington

Outlook: "Carolina will have a good season. If (Coach Steve Spurrier) gets them to play as a team, they'll have a real good season, either nine or 10 wins."

USC vs. Clemson: "It's going to be close. I'm going to say 24-21 Carolina."

Sgt. Hershel Scruggs, Gaffney

Outlook: "We can win nine, 10 games. The defensive and offensive lines are going to be the keys to the season. Blake Mitchell has the potential to be an All-SEC quarterback. We should have an awesome running back attack with Cory Boyd and Mike Davis."

USC vs. Clemson: "We'll win 27-17. Only reason I say that is because Clemson's got a good team."

The Tiger fans say ...

Sgt. 1st Class Ritchie Brunson, Hampton

Outlook: "I'm going to say 7-5. It all depends on the quarterback. The defense is still going to be strong this year. That's what's going to hold them in the Carolina game."

USC vs. Clemson: "It ain't going to be a blowout. Clemson,


Sgt. Eric Cannon, Newberry

Outlook: "Clemson's going to pull out a nine-win season that'll hopefully land them in the ACC championship game. They'll lose to Boston College and maybe Florida State in the home opener. The season will hinge on quarterback play."

USC-Clemson: Tigers, 28-17

Sgt. Lyndon Amick, Saluda

Outlook: "I feel like they're definitely a contender. It's funny how Clemson is not happy when they win nine, 10 games a year. I'd be happy if we can win nine games. I would hope the mob would be happy with nine wins, but they'll call for (Coach Tommy) Bowden's head."

USC vs. Clemson: "My gut says 49-0, but my head says we win 28-21."

Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Seaford, York

Outlook: "I'm looking for them to win nine games and maybe make the Gator Bowl. If they do better than that, that's great. But I'll be happy if they win nine. They can start by winning that first game against Florida State. And I want them to beat, for sure, Boston College and Virginia Tech."

USC vs. Clemson: Tigers, 28-21