The SEC has some of the best cross-divisional rivalries in college football. Florida-LSU, Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia are great rivalries that have made their mark on the SEC football culture over the years.
When the SEC expanded back in 2012, the SEC had to wrestle with new scheduling dynamics as it worked to preserve existing rivalries while integrating two new football teams into the conference.
The new rivalry of Texas A&M vs. South Carolina, which began with the first meeting in 2014, was one of the byproducts of conference expansion.
The permanent cross-divisional rivalry means that under the current scheduling framework, Texas A&M will play South Carolina every year, even though the Aggies only play two SEC East teams per year. Each SEC team plays 8 conference games (6 within its own division, 1 permanent cross-divisional team and 1 rotating cross-divisional team).
Perhaps the best part of the permanent nature of such a rivalry is that the fan bases really get to know each other.
South Carolina vs. Texas A&M began with a bang when South Carolina welcomed its new rival, Texas A&M, to town back in 2014. Aggies from all over the southeast converged onto Columbia, S.C., and even held their historic “Yell Practice” on the steps of the South Carolina state house the night before the game.
What a great moment of college football showcasing an awesome tradition to a new group of fans.
Similarly, one of South Carolina’s traditions for home games is the line of tailgating cabooses adjacent to Williams-Brice Stadium.
Back in 1990, local businessman Ed Robinson bought 22 cabooses from Illinois Central Railroad and had them placed right along Williams-Brice. The cars sit and fans tailgate in and around them on game day. It’s one of the most unique setups in all of college football.
Not long ago, our Saturday Down South correspondent had the opportunity to visit one of these “Cockabooses” firsthand:
Football, fans, food … it all factors into the overall experience (don’t forget the Bud Light). When you combine two new fan bases like South Carolina and Texas A&M year after year, you create a new dynamic … a new rivalry with its own characteristics.
But like any new rivalry, there’s quite a bit of history lacking. The history is what provides the anchors from which fan experiences and memories hang. Auburn and Georgia fans can all recall when Georgia won on a 4th-and-15 play in the final moments of the 2002 game. Florida and LSU fans can recall the crazy fake field goals and wild finishes over the years.
Cross-divisional rivalries take time to mature and grow. As the years pass, these moments will also happen for South Carolina vs. Texas A&M both on the field and off.
However, even though South Carolina and Texas A&M have only met twice, the first meeting of the teams and fan bases provided quite a launching point for a great rivalry moving forward. Fans of both programs will recall the moments in Columbia, S.C., back in 2014 surrounding the first game.
It might be another decade (or two) before we start to call this a great SEC rivalry, but we expect that it will, in fact, become a great SEC rivalry.
As for our friends at Bud Light, they continue the Bud Light Down South tour this week in Columbia. Since it’s expected to be sunny and near 90 on Saturday, we’d suggest you keep a couple cold ones with you at all times!
If you’re in Columbia, don’t forget to check them out at the tailgate on the corner of Garland and Bluff starting at noon.