South Carolina and Texas A&M have played football against each other a grand total of four times. Before 2014, that number was zero. Their history is almost nothing.
And yet! The SEC makes these teams play each other every year, because, uh, yeah!
Every team in the conference has one protected rival in the other division, and the Gamecocks and Aggies are just that. The Aggies joined the conference from the Big 12 in 2012, and these teams got stuck with each other.
But they’re trying to figure things out.
Texas A&M beat South Carolina in 2017, 24-17, keeping up an undefeated all-time record that stretches back a full four years. But despite these teams having practically no experience with each other, the seeds of something mildly more interesting than a conference-demanded rivalry have taken root.
First, they got a rivalry trophy. Before the 2014 season, they settled on a thingy that features James Butler Bonham, an old Alamo hero who happened to hail from the Palmetto State. When you mix the Alamo and South Carolina, you get something mutually agreeable to a bunch of Texans and a bunch of Gamecocks. Steve Spurrier had opinions on it.
Then, before their first game that year, a bunch of Aggies and a bunch of Gamecocks got together out front of South Carolina’s state capitol and had themselves a good, rugged yelling match. Really, they were all just screaming at each other. Rivalry!
After that A&M win in ‘14, the Aggies had fun with South Carolina's beloved tradition of playing "Sandstorm" (that song that goes "doo doo doo doo doo doo DOO DOO DOO DOO DOO DOO"). The Aggies also played the song at practice a few days later.
Here is a 10-hour version of a locker room celebration that our A&M blog, Good Bull Hunting, created:
More recently but just as importantly, a few Texas A&M fans literally deep-fried South Carolina helmets. This beauty came into existence in 2016:
Deep-frying eccentric food dishes is a very Texan thing, after all.
The scores of the four games have not been especially rivalry-conducive.
A&M put a hearty whooping on South Carolina the first year, 52-28 (the Kenny Hill game), then won again in 2015, 35-28. 2016’s final score was 24-13 Aggies, close-ish but not a nail-biter. The 24-17 Aggie win might have broken new ground, though, as A&M needed two fourth-quarter touchdown drives to go from behind to ahead for good.
Arguably, this is the least exciting of the SEC’s seven protected crossover rivalries. Perhaps there’s a motion on the floor for Kentucky-Mississippi State, but that was a damn CBS game just a few years ago.
The majority of those protected games aren’t that exciting, so maybe the league ought to consider just bagging its divisional concept and protecting three rivalries per year, per team. That’d work, but until it does, this can maybe be fine?