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Missouri ready to earn respect as it makes jump into big, bad SEC

by | College Football Insider
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T.J. Moe steals the show at the first SEC media day. Now will Mizzou do the same on the field? (US Presswire)  
T.J. Moe steals the show at the first SEC media day. Now will Mizzou do the same on the field? (US Presswire)  

HOOVER, Ala. -- On its way to winning six consecutive national titles, the SEC has proven it is superior to other conferences in various ways such as "SEC speed," higher coaching salaries and dominant defensive linemen.

Missouri wide receiver T.J. Moe, whose Tigers haven't even made their SEC debut yet, has been told about other examples.

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"They say the girls are prettier," Moe said, "the air's fresher and the toilet paper is thicker."

Who knew thicker toilet paper was one of the advantages of playing in the SEC? Based on the majority of questions during Tuesday's SEC media days directed toward Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and three Tigers, Missouri is going to get wiped out in its debut SEC season after moving from the Big 12.

"People act like we've been playing a bunch of high school teams," Pinkel said. "We've played in a pretty big league [in the Big 12].

"It's all going to play out. We all know how it works. It's in the process. How is Missouri and Texas A&M going to do in the SEC? There's going to be an analysis every single week."

And maybe an autopsy.

The Tigers, along with Texas A&M, left the Big 12 for the SEC. The Big 12 is known for its spread offenses and leaky defenses; the SEC is known for defense, defense and more defense.

"I know what we do works," Missouri offensive tackle Elvis Fisher said. "We'll go with that. We'll be prepared. It'll be fun."

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier believes the two newcomers will be "extremely competitive" in the SEC.

"I think [Missouri and Texas A&M] is going to win a bunch of games; wouldn't surprise me if they weren't in the hunt to win a division or so," Spurrier said. "I think they may be right up there."

Moe is confident the Tigers' spread offense, led by quarterback James Franklin, will be just fine.

"We had the ninth-best rushing team in all of college football last year with 3,000 yards running and 3,000 yards passing," Moe said. "We've been a diverse team. We're not your spread that throws it around 60 times a game, like the old Texas Tech teams or even Houston over the years.

"We run the ball a lot. We have the players to make a big difference. They're going to have to cover us."

Or Missouri might have to duck for cover.

The Tigers haven't been exactly a powerhouse. They have three Big 12 North co-division titles since 2007 but haven't won a conference title in 43 years. That was back in 1969 when they were co-champions of the Big Eight.

Now it's off to the SEC, competing each week against the baddest bunch in the land. In the past few months, Moe said he attended six weddings and at each one, he was asked about 25 times how the Tigers would fare in the SEC. Some people were more direct: "Are you going to get killed?"

Pinkel admitted the Tigers are looking forward to their first SEC game on Sept. 8 against Georgia. The Tigers open the season at home against Southeastern Louisiana.

"Everybody is going to analyze that the way they want," Pinkel said. "I think the Georgia game, it's big. I normally never talk about a game other than your first game ever. We understand historically for the University of Missouri it's going to be a big game, the first SEC game, the first SEC home game for our university.

"It's going to be a big game for us. But there's going to be a lot of big games. I think that's one of the things that separates the SEC from the other leagues in this country. There's so many good football teams you're going to play week in, week out. That's what defines the league."

Pinkel said Missouri fans "have become fanatical" about joining the SEC. A school official said the Tigers are on pace to sell what would be a record 45,000 season tickets. The Tigers have never topped 41,000 season tickets at Memorial Stadium (capacity 71,004).

Moe and Fisher said the Tigers have to earn their respect: starting Sept. 8. And that's exactly what they plan to do -- whether anyone outside of Columbia, Mo., believes they will or not.

"You have to earn everything you get, nobody's going to give us respect," Moe said. "They [SEC teams] still have to come out and stop us. We still have all-SEC caliber players. The media is the people really making a big deal about it. The SEC has won the last six national championships, but they're not understanding that all 12 teams didn't win the national championship. Just one of them [each season].

"We're coming in and we're still the redheaded stepchild coming in until we earn our place. That's fine. We get to do that in a few weeks."

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