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Testy times ahead in Palmetto rivalry

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Testy times ahead in Palmetto rivalry

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) It's the week Clemson and South Carolina fans have waited for all year. And it's never been this big - or this testy.

The 12th-ranked Tigers (10-1) and 13th-ranked Gamecocks (9-2) play Saturday at Death Valley - if South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier remembers the location of the stadium.

Spurrier and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney have spent the past year trading jabs since the Gamecocks won their third straight in the rivalry, 34-13 last season.

A few days later, Swinney went on a rant that should live for the ages in the lore of the rivalry. He ripped South Carolina's pedigree, nickname and football history against Clemson, all over a comment attributed to Spurrier on social media the head ball coach never said.

``Tweet that,'' Swinney concluded last December.

Spurrier has questioned Swinney's smarts, poked fun at Death Valley's location - ``Is there another one?'' Spurrier quipped before LSU week - and said at an on-campus celebration last month for injured tailback Marcus Lattimore that ``usually when that coach up there talks about South Carolina, it's a bunch of garbage.''

And that was before praising Swinney's kind words over losing Lattimore.

``They don't like us very much and we don't care for them,'' said Lattimore's replacement in the Gamecocks' backfield, Kenny Miles.

All the coaching back-and-forth may have overshadowed the best combined seasons in the history of the rivalry. The Tigers won their seventh straight game and 13th in a row at home with a 62-48 victory over North Carolina State on Saturday. Clemson was awarded a trophy afterward as co-champs of the ACC Atlantic Division, although Florida State will play in the title game because of its win over the Tigers two months ago.

South Carolina extended its winning streak to three with a 24-7 victory over FCS opponent Wofford.

It's the first time since 1987 and just the second time overall the schools have both been in the top 15 when they've played, although both dropped a spot in the latest rankings. Plus, the stakes are sky high. A win by Clemson could bring an at-large BCS berth to the Sugar Bowl. South Carolina's seeking a second straight 10-win season for the first time.

``I don't know how you can add any more juice to this game,'' Swinney said.

Spurrier has a chance for some additional history: A fourth straight win over Clemson, something that's happened just once before (1951-54) in a series that began in 1896.

It's a streak the Tigers are tired of hearing about.

Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd says for all the team have accomplished with three divisional trophies and last year's Atlantic Coast Conference title, it's a little hollow without defeating the Gamecocks.

``I think it's a must-win situation for us,'' he said. ``It's one of those deals where it has to happen.''

You could tell South Carolina's run had worn on Swinney's nerves last fall when he was asked after a Tigers practice about a Twitter comment attributed to Spurrier - but actually said by radio play-by-play man Todd Ellis - that while South Carolina wasn't among the SEC's elite teams like Alabama or LSU, ``we ain't Clemson either.''

Swinney called the comment childish and without merit. He pointed out the Tigers' superior record overall and in the series. ``They're never going to be Clemson, to be honest with you. No three-game win streak is going to change that,'' the coach said.

Swinney wasn't finished, mocking nicknames and saying there's a different, higher standard to Clemson football than at South Carolina.

``He's exactly right. They ain't Alabama. They ain't LSU. And they're certainly not Clemson. That's why Carolina is in Chapel Hill and USC is in California,'' he continued. ``The university in this state, always has been, always will be - Clemson. It's right here in Clemson, South Carolina. Print that. Tweet that. Whatever.''

Spurrier wasn't angry. ``Smart people don't believe everything they read, and they don't believe hearsay,'' he said. ``I guess Dabo believed it.''

Spurrier's had a long history of tweaking rivals. His comments needling Tennessee (''You can't spell Citrus without UT'') and Florida State (''Free Shoes University'') while coach at Florida are part of college football legend.

Spurrier is 4-3 in the rivalry, tied for second-most Clemson wins by a South Carolina coach with Paul Dietzel. Spurrier trails Rex Enright's eight series wins in 15 years with the Gamecocks. Spurrier tied Enright's career program victories record at 64 last week and gets first crack at the school record at Death Valley.

Spurrier's most recent jab on the Tigers came at the Lattimore ceremony, where teammates, coaches, officials and fans came together two days after Lattimore's injury - and on his 21st birthday - to wish him well when Spurrier took a roundabout way to thank Swinney.

Clemson's coach took it as a compliment. ``It's like me telling my wife, `You don't look as fat in this dress,''' he said.

One thing players on both sides agree on: Little pregame chatter matters at kickoff. ``Regardless of what their coach says, what our coach says, it's going to be a heated game,'' Miles said.

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Associated Press writer Jeffrey Collins contributed to this report.

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

The Stanley Cup is not the only trophy that will be awarded at the end of the Stanley Cup Final series between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights. The Conn Smythe will also be given to the player deemed the most valuable to his team during the playoffs.

Who will that player be?

It's not hard to figure out who the frontrunner is right now. Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't just been the best goalie in the playoffs, he's been the best player with a dominant postseason in which he has posted a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. He has been so dominant, he could win it even if Vegas loses the series.

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

The last player from the losing team to win the Conn Smythe was Jean-Sebastian Giguere from the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003.

But what about the Caps?

Alex Ovechkin is the leader of Washington and has been absolutely dominant throughout the postseason. He even scored the series-clinching goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Surprisingly, however, Ovechkin does not lead the team in points through the playoffs. Evgeny Kuznetsov holds that edge with 24 points to Ovechkin's 22.

Will their offensive dominance propel them to win the Cup and the Conn Smythe? Will a different player emerge as the hero of the series?

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

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Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

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Associated Press

Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 26, 17 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.  

Note: I am vacationing in the Outer Banks this week. In this space, I’ll be presenting some of the most popular posts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy these “best of” presentations and I’ll see you folks when I get back. 

Contract makes Alex Smith a Redskins for at least three seasons

This post was originally published on March 19. 

When the Redskins traded for Alex Smith on January 30, news also broke that he had agreed to a four-year extension with Washington in addition to the one year left on his contract with the Chiefs. While we got some top-line numbers on the deal, we have gone since then without any details. 

Until now. 

The details show a deal that has a slightly higher cap hit in 2018 than was on his original Chiefs contract and the numbers rise gradually over the life of the deal, which runs through 2022. 

Smith got a $27 million signing bonus and his salaries for 2018 ($13 million) and 2019 ($15 million) also are fully guaranteed at signing making the total $55 million (information via Over the Cap, which got data from a report by Albert Breer). 

But there I another $16 million that is guaranteed for all practical purposes. On the fifth day of the 2019 league year, his 2020 salary of $16 million becomes fully guaranteed. He almost assuredly will get to the point where that money will become guaranteed since the Redskins are not going to cut him after one year having invested $55 million in him. So the total guarantees come to $71 million. 

His 2021 salary is $19 million and it goes up to $21 million in 2022. There have been reports of some incentives available to Smith but since we have no details we’ll set those aside for now. 

The cap hits on the contract are as follows: 

2018: $18.4 million
2019: $20.0 million
2020: $21.4 million
2021: $24.4 million
2022: $26.4 million

The Redskins can realistically move on from Smith after 2020. There would be net cap savings of $13 million in 2021 and $21 million in 2022. 

The first impression of the deal is that the Redskins did not move on from Kirk Cousins because they didn’t want to guarantee a lot of money to a quarterback. The total practical guarantee of $71 million is second only to Cousins’ $82.5 million. It should be noted that Cousins’ deal runs for three years and Smith’s contract is for five. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler