HOOVER, Ala. — Missouri coach Gary Pinkel’s message at SEC Football Media Days was pretty similar to the one delivered by Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin a couple of hours earlier. That is, the Tigers aren’t intimidated about now having to play eight SEC opponents versus Big 12 opponents.
“I’d be real disappointed if we were intimidated,” said Pinkel, who has coached Missouri for the past 11 seasons. “We played in a pretty good league ourselves. We understand how it works. Everybody’s wondering how Missouri is going to do in the SEC. Everybody’s going to be analyzing us. That’s going to be the case every week we play. …
“We’re new. We have to prove ourselves and earn respect, and that’s what we’re going to work hard to do.”
The Tigers have proven they can succeed on a high level. They’ve won double-digit games three times under Pinkel, including a 12-2 mark in 2007 when they were in the BCS discussion until late in the season.
Missouri is used to going up against Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma the other Big 12 heavyweights. That has prepared the Tigers well for taking on the likes of Georgia, against which they’ll open their SEC slate on Sept. 8 in Columbia. They play Southeastern Louisiana in Week 1.
“It’s big,” Pinkel said of facing the Bulldogs early. “Normally you never talk about any game but your first game, ever. But understand historically for the University of Missouri it’s going to be a big game, the first SEC game the first SEC home game.”
Franklin said the Bullodogs are going to encounter an “electric atmosphere.”
“We call our place [Memorial Stadium] ‘The Zou,” Pinkel said. “It’s a great place to play college football. . . . I think the Georgai game will bring a whole new dimension to that. To say our fans are excited about being in the SEC, that’d be an understatement. They’re fanatical about it.”
One question facing the Tigers heading into the season is the health of their talented quarterback James Franklin. Franklin, who had 3,846 yards of total offense this past season, had to have shoulder surgery on his right, throwing shoulder after spring practice.
“James Franklin is doing well,” Pinkel said. “Without question, we expect him to be 100 percent. The trainer told us that two weeks ago. It will be interesting to see in August how he’s throwing accuracy wise as he’s throwing over and over.”
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