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8 ways Auburn and Clemson are basically the same, down to the story behind their ‘Tigers’ nickname

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These two have a shared history that goes all the way back to the very beginning.

Clemson v Auburn Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

With Auburn and Clemson (who meet on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN), some similarities are obvious. Both Southern mainstays wear orange, are called the Tigers, have won national titles recently with program-changing black quarterbacks, and use up-tempo styles on offense.

But when you dig deeper, the two schools are quite alike in ways that go back over a century. And the parts about orange and Tigers aren’t at all coincidental.

1. “Clemson is basically Auburn with a lake.”

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying. It comes from the late Southern humorist, Lewis Gizzard. He made the remark in, among other places, this 1991 column on the Georgia-Clemson rivalry.

God, last year in Death Valley. The heat was nearly unbearable. People fainted. And I was stuck, as are all Georgia fans when they venture to Auburn-with-a-lake, deep in the end zone.

There’s a variation of the saying as well: “Clemson is Auburn with a lake, and Auburn is Clemson without a lake.”

They’re so similar, one 2012 player who was recruited by both schools joked that the only deciding factor was Auburn’s campus Chick-fil-A. (Yep, Clemson does have Chick-fil-A.)

2. The signature buildings on each campus were designed by the same architectural firm, Bruce & Morgan in the late 19th century.

Feature: Toomer's Corner Trees Ready to Roll Again
Auburn’s Samford Hall
Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

3. Former Auburn president Jay Gogue said their shared roots go back to the Civil War era.

The original missions of the two schools are the same, according to Gogue. Laid out by Abraham Lincoln in 1862, the four missions of both schools are to:

• Reduce the number of people in agriculture by increasing efficiency

• Introduce new fields of studies such as mechanical arts and science

• Be a provider of military personnel

• Provide a place for sons and daughters of the working class

4. Their shared football history goes back to the very beginning.

Per Clemson, the school’s first three football coaches — W.M. Williams, John Penton, and Walter Riggs — were all Auburn graduates. Riggs left Auburn in 1896 to franchise the program at Clemson:

"He (Riggs) brought some old Auburn practice uniforms with him (orange jerseys and navy jerseys) that, because of washboard washings, were no longer navy and orange, but looked more purple and orange. He also brought the name, "tigers" with him, and named his brand new football team the Clemson Tigers.

He chose orange as the dominant color, because those jerseys weren't quite as faded as the navy ones. And from that time forward, Walter M. Riggs has been known as the "father of Clemson Football."

In 1896, Riggs hired John Heisman as Auburn’s football coach.

In 1900, Riggs hired Heisman again, this time as Clemson’s football coach.

5. They have some similar unique traditions.

Most fans storm the field only after huge upset wins. Clemson fans meet at midfield after every home game.

Meanwhile, Auburn fans roll the trees at Toomer’s Corner. Heading into 2017, the last time they did that was thanks to ... Clemson beating Alabama in the National Championship.

Both teams have also used similar branding, down to the “ALL IN” that’s Clemson’s Dabo Swinney’s rallying cry and Clemson’s social media go-to ...

... and was formerly used by Auburn’s Gene Chizik.

6. Despite being in different conferences, they’ve played each other frequently.

They played pretty consistently through 1971, then would meet only once from then until 2007. They now play semi-regularly. After the 2017 meeting, they’ll have met four times since 2010.

Auburn holds the advantage, 34-14-2, though Clemson’s won three in a row, heading into 2017.

7. They’ve found similar levels of success, despite often being overlooked among other massive Southern powers.

Auburn claims the 1957 and 2010 national titles, while Clemson won it all in 1981 and 2016. They both rank in the top 25 in all-time winning percentage among FBS teams.

Both were also elite in the 1980s and champs in the 2010s, with inconsistent results in between that led to the now-defunct “Clemsoning” meme and Auburn’s status as an annual preseason mystery.

8. Stemming from both schools’ agricultural roots, they also share similar state rivalries.

Both are embroiled in the most vitriolic of local rivalries.

Per stereotype, the lawyers, doctors, and politicians come from Alabama and South Carolina, while the farmers come from Auburn and Clemson. That tension was the reason Clemson was formed in 1889, and thus the genesis of the rivalry between the Tigers and Gamecocks, per South Carolina.

The rivalry began with the escalating tension within South Carolina’s government. The objective of University of South Carolina was to bring the Upstate and Lowcountry of South Carolina together through a place of higher learning. However, critics like Benjamin Tillman saw the university as elitist with a subpar agricultural program and pushed for a college that focused on more practical education. After some political back and forth, Tillman was able to create Clemson Agriculture College.

The Iron Bowl was so petty, the schools didn’t play for decades after a $34 contract dispute.

There won’t be any crimson or garnet on the field or in the stands Saturday, but there will be plenty of orange between these Tigers. Whether it’s accompanied by purple or blue will be one of very few differences.