Seven years ago the University of South Carolina football team coughed up a 28-7 halftime lead to the Missouri Tigers – losing the 2005 Independence Bowl 38-31.

That was head coach Steve Spurrier’s first year in Columbia, S.C. – and while the loss was bitter, the future was wide open for Gamecock fans.  In the six seasons since then Spurrier’s program has finally emerged from the depths of mediocrity (including a 6-6 season in 2007 and an embarrassing loss to Connecticut in the 2010 bowl) and experienced unprecedented success.

After going 35-28 through his first five seasons (including an 18-22 mark in SEC play and a 5-10 mark against Florida, Georgia and Tennessee), Spurrier is 23-7 since (including a 12-5 mark in the SEC and a 6-0 record against Florida, Georgia and Tennessee).

USC has also won three straight against its arch-rivals, the Clemson Tigers, and been ranked among the nation’s Top 25 teams for two straight years.  Spurrier has accomplished this by playing “grown man football,” or as University of Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson described it recently – “old man football.”

Richardson’s Tigers will come to Williams-Brice Stadium this weekend looking to earn their first-ever SEC win – and the local press in the “Show Me State” is making a big deal about how Mizzou is much further along than South Carolina was when the Gamecocks first joined the SEC in 1992.

That’s true … but it won’t help the Tigers on Saturday.

“Old man football” will be alive and well when the Tigers play their first-ever SEC road game at Williams-Brice Stadium, which we certainly hope will provide the home team with its first packed house of the season.

After being held in check for two games, we predict Heisman Trophy candidate Marcus Lattimore will go off against the Tigers.  In fact we’re going to go ahead and make the bold prediction that Lattimore – who recently broke the school’s all-time touchdown record – will eclipse the 150-yard mark against Missouri and register at least one touchdown.  We also expect defensive linemen Jadeveon Clowney, Devin Taylor and Kelcy Quarles to wreak havoc on a Mizzou offensive line that’s without its anchor (senior left tackle Elvis Fisher).

And even without defensive back D.J. Swearinger in the lineup, look for the Gamecock “D” to put up points for the third consecutive game.

Oh and unlike 2005, when these Gamecocks take the lead … we expect them to keep it.  After all, pounding opponents into submission is what “old man football” is all about.

USC-Mizzou kicks off at 3:30 p.m. EDT Saturday, with CBS providing national television coverage.  The game is sold out, and the seventh-ranked Gamecocks are 10-point favorites.  To read columnist John Loveday’s preview of the game, click here.