Of course, Clemson will probably always be South Carolina’s main rival, and Tiger fans still hate Kansas the most. And South Carolina is generally likable, when they’re not starting Civil Wars. Their campus was great when I went to a Mizzou game there. They employed Steve Spurrier, a witty, subtle insult-slinging college football treasure. A friend of a friend was on the South Carolina women’s equestrian team, and they called themselves the Cock Riders. They seem like a fun bunch.
But there is growing evidence that the Tigers and Gamecocks have a nice second-tier rivalry going here. This week, a South Carolina newspaper columnist wrote a piece saying the game was a must-win for the Gamecocks, saying the spread favoring the Tigers by more than a touchdown was an insult, and throwing in some digs at Missouri as well to helpfully add some spice to the game (a grab bag of calling Drew Lock overrated, saying Mizzou’s gameday atmosphere was bad, and pining for swapping out MU for UCF in the SEC). The headline even included the word “misery.” It was like hitting “insult Mizzou” bingo!
This week Missouri receiver Richaud Floyd called it a “great rivalry,” harkening back to the days of yore when Jadeveon Clowney and Marcus Murphy played for the teams.
And to top it off, we’ve got a rivalry trophy! It’s origins are charming in their dorkiness, standing in stark contrast to the corporate-named rivalry trophy with Arkansas. Related to that, you’d think someone in a board room would’ve been like, “you know what would be a good quality in a rivalry trophy? Being able to lift it.”
But the Missouri-South Carolina thing has been, like most college football things that don’t suck, more organic. The trophy came as a result of a rich college football tradition; eccentric people with money and or political clout making things happen. When Mizzou joined the SEC, the mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, decided that since the conference newcomer was also from a town named Columbia, they should have a rivalry trophy, like when George Constanza told Jerry Seinfeld he had an “in” with Jerry Lewis because they both had the first name Jerry.
The mayor of Columbia, Missouri, gave his support, and the Mayor’s Cup was born. I’ve spent too much time contemplating the grammar on that name, but since one mayor really did the work to make it happen, I think I’m okay with it.
The Columbia mayor in South Carolina just went out and bought the trophy, which is why it resembles something you’d hastily buy as a participation trophy for a youth soccer team. But its simpleness works. This is a rivalry trophy that’s not trying too hard. It’s shiny, it has a nice wooden base, it can be brandished after a win. It works.
As for the opportunities to brandish it, South Carolina won in pretty straightforward fashion in 2012, Missouri’s first time on the CBS SEC game of the week.
The 2013 game was possibly the biggest at Faurot in Mizzou’s SEC era, with South Carolina ranked and Missouri unbeaten and ranked No. 5. Missouri led 17-0, but then Gamecock quarterback Connor Shaw, who had been out with injury, entered the game and Spurrier got on a heater calling plays, like Alan in “The Hangover” staring into the distance and seeing the numbers to succeed at blackjack. The Gamecocks roared back and won in double overtime when Missouri missed a short field goal off the blankety-blanking upright.
Missouri got revenge in 2014, seeming down and out and trailing 20-7 in the fourth quarter. But Missouri clawed back, including a final drive that saw the Tigers convert two do-or-die fourth downs, the second of which was a Russell Hansbrough touchdown run that won the game.
The 2015 meeting was Drew Lock’s first start, Missouri cruised to a 24-10 win. The future seemed bright, although Missouri’s three touchdowns in the game were half of their season total for touchdowns in SEC play that year, which still boggles my mind.
The 2016 and 2017 games were Gamecock wins, with South Carolina’s hyped quarterback Jake Bentley beating Mizzou’s hyped quarterback Drew Lock.
Last year was kind of a ridiculous game; bizarre weather, a long delay, and then South Carolina winning at the end after Missouri seemed to be in position to win.
Now, we get a big game for both teams. In addition to playing for that silver cup, this game could have big implications for how the teams’ seasons play out.