The SEC has tried to tell Mizzou that their rival is Arkansas for years. The game is played the week of Thanksgiving. The opponent is due south. Their state name even includes Mizzou’s old rival!
They even made a big, shiny trophy for the winner! What more could you ask for?!
But Arkansas isn’t Mizzou’s rival. Not by a long shot. It never was, and it may never be in the future.
I’ve always been of the opinion there are two different classifications of rivalries: traditional and competitive. You can have one without the other. But you can’t have a rivalry without one of those two things involved. There has to be tradition... or competition.
The best rivalries are both traditional & competitive — think North Carolina-Duke in basketball or Michigan-Ohio State in football. Some are traditional, but not competitive —think Mizzou versus kU in football.
And then there are other rivalries, which are competitive... but far from traditional.
This is where Mizzou and South Carolina come in.
Let’s do a thought experiment for a moment: Think of the best, most competitive games Mizzou has played since its arrival in the SEC.
Chances are, a South Carolina game immediately popped up in your head.
Maybe it was the “Connor Shaw comeback” (AKA the Baggett missed kick) game in 2013. I’ll never forget the sound of that football hitting the upright.
Maybe you thought of Mizzou’s insane (impossible?) comeback in the other Columbia back in 2014. I’m still not entirely sure how the Tigers pulled that one off. What a strange (and fun!) season.
You might’ve thought of Drew Lock’s first ever start at Mizzou in less-than-ideal circumstances. Maybe last year’s disastrous loss in the monsoon came to mind.
Those moments are what lead to vivid memories. Those memories are what build a rivalry.
I understand the SEC wants to make the “Battle Line Rivalry” a thing. I get it. I really do. Geographically, it makes sense. And I can also understand why some Mizzou fans want Georgia to be the Tigers’ main “rival.” But let’s be honest, the two programs are just on different playing fields both historically and right now. That series has neither the tradition, nor the competition. Not yet, anyway.
Missouri is a better program historically than South Carolina (although it’s not like the Tigers are leaps & bounds better), but recent history is actually pretty comparable. Both programs started to improve with a solid coaching hire in the early 2000s. For Mizzou, it was Gary Pinkel. For South Carolina, it was Lou Holtz who got the program back on track in 2000 and then Steve Spurrier took it to the next level beginning in 2005.
South Carolina - like Missouri - is one of the more recent additions to the SEC and is still seen by some of the traditional fanbases as a bit of an “outsider.”
The parallels continue, but you get the point. These programs share a lot in common. Both are far from national brands, yet both have seen their team play in meaningful bowl games within the last decade... And both are trying to regain that fleeting feeling under a recently hired coach.
College football rivalries aren’t all created equally. South Carolina will never replace kansas as Missouri’s rival. The Gamecocks don’t have 100 years of history with Mizzou. Your kids don’t go to school with half the class rooting for South Carolina the way they once did with Jayhawk fans. (editor’s note: GROSS)
But it doesn’t have to be that kind of rivalry for it to be a rivalry.
The games are meaningful. They consistently have drama. The programs are perpetually fighting for supremacy among the second tier of the SEC East.
This is a rivalry. And it continues on Saturday. There are already seven meetings between these teams since the Tigers joined the SEC. Four were decided by one score. Another was a one score game until late in the fourth quarter.
Dozens of highlights have been made, with names already etched in our memories. It continues on Saturday.
Welcome to Mizzou’s (real) rivalry week.