Georgia fans have often asked me what awaits the Bulldogs when they visit Missouri on September 8th. Well, I’ve never been to Columbia, Mo., either. But I know the Tigers and their fans will be especially fired up for their first SEC game in history.
Here’s what Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel thinks:
“It will be mammoth here. Our fans are so excited about being a part of the SEC. That being the first game is going to make it a big, big, game here. People are talking about it already; rarely do they ever do that. They understand we’re playing a great Georgia team. We understand that. When we switched leagues, that enthusiasm really for that game and from our fanbase in general has been remarkably positive for us.”
Pinkel was taking part in his first SEC teleconference call on Tuesday. Thirteen of the 14 coaches — Arkansas’ new guy, John L. Smith, wasn’t due to be introduced until about 3 p.m. — answered reporters’ questions for about 10 minutes or so as part of this post-spring-practice tradition.
Pinkel, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin and Ole Miss’s Hugh Freeze were the new kids on the block. Pinkel was asked about making the transition and trying to get ready for the Bulldogs.
“Anytime you make a transition like we’re making to the SEC there are a lot of things that are involved,” Pinkel said. “One is, not knowing any of the personnel or schemes we’re playing as far as our opponents. Obviously we know all the Big 12 teams very well. So we’re doing a lot of analysis right now, not just of Georgia, but of all the teams we’re going to play next year. That’s been going on since the end of February and it will go on into August. That’s kind of part of our transition. We have to do a lot of homework and a lot of study and evaluation of the schemes of all these teams and certainly personnel. . . . It’s very important for us to do a thorough analysis so that when we play these teams we have a pretty good understanding of what their makeup is.”
Georgia and Florida both have the unenviable task of christening the new teams into SEC play. The Gators also play Texas A&M on Sept. 8 in College Station.
“You knew [when SEC 2012 schedules were released] that was going to be an historic game for Missouri and for Texas A&M, for that matter,” Richt said. “It was pretty obvious the excitement for those programs is going to be at an all-time high. So it’s going to be a great challenge for us from a psychological point of view. But, in the meantime, we’ve been able to look at some film of Missouri’s offense and defense and they’re very impressive. You look at their overall record, knowing Coach Pinkel and his history of success, just seeing the players that they have and the big games they’ve won in teh past, we know it’s going to be a tremendous challenge for us. But we’ll be excited about it, too.”
A lot of the coaches were talking about how different it will be playing Missouri because they play such a radically different style of spread offense, often utilizing four and five wide receivers. Florida’s Will Muschamp and Auburn’s Gene Chizik both faced Pinkel’s offenses while defensive coordinators at Texas.
Richt doesn’t believe the scheme itself is a problem.
“Our league is pretty diverse,” he said. “There’s not any one way of doing things in the Southeastern Conference. They’ll be doing some things a lot of teams in our league do. They may spread out a little more than most people in our league do, but not anything that no one has ever seen before.”
Schemes and matchups aside, it’s the sheer electricity expected on Sept. 8th that has everybody so excited. Pinkel expects his team to be pumped up by the atmosphere — but not overwhelmed by it.
“We’ve had some remarkably big games here,” Pinkle said. “A couple of years ago we were both 7-0 when we played Oklahoma in a big night game here. We’ve had a bunch of games like that over the years, like Georgia has had and all the other teams in the country have had. What really is different here is this a new era. This is the beginning of a new era for Missouri football forever. We just happen to be playing Georgia this year in our opener for that and there is just a real enthusiasm for it. It will go down in history as the first game. So to say it’s just a normal game, just a normal conference game, it’s really not. Once you break the ice there, then there it goes and we’ll just move on.”
– Chip Towers, The UGA Blog