As they say so prominently in the SEC, “It’s time for big-boy football.” The 12-team SEC suddenly became the 14-team SEC as Texas A&M and Missouri joined the league last year, and begin actual competition in 2012. I said it then and I will say it now; it’s hard to believe a school from west Texas is now a member of the Southeastern Conference. (At least the Aggies are in the SEC West). It’s equally hard to believe that Missouri, approximately 1,100 miles driving distance from Gainesville, Fla., is now in the SEC East. (At least Mizzou is east of Texas A&M) Both schools are picked to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack in their respective divisions, mainly because not even the very best pre-season prognosticators can figure out where the Aggies and Tigers belong.
(Did you know with the addition of Missouri, three of the 14 SEC teams are nicknamed Tigers?)
While most SEC fans are still laughing at Mizzou as a member of the SEC football wars, they may be laughing too soon. Missouri is a very hot property. The Tigers signed the nation’s number one football prospect, Dorial-Green Beckham. That means Missouri is now more than ready to play “big-boy” football. Enrollment is booming, and the Tigers spent much of the past college basketball season ranked in the top ten. Since 2007, Missouri is 48-19, which is better than Auburn, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Georgia. Since 2006, Missouri is one of just six BCS schools to win at least eight games per season. The only SEC school on that particular list is LSU.
As far as Texas A&M goes, the Aggies have more than just the “12th” man to offer the SEC. (I know…..they also offer great barbeque, but let’s stick to football here). New head coach Kevin Sumlin wants to do a major upgrade of facilities, “This building feels old and stiff and cold,” Sumlin said. “Everything is dark. I’m always going around flipping on lights, This has to reflect that we have a younger staff. This building should be a tool for teaching and recruiting.” So, let the facilities upgrade begin. There is no question there is more than enough money in west Texas.
For both Texas A&M and Missouri, there will be a big culture change as they play in the SEC. Early in the season, there will be awful humidity, birds will be flipped at team buses on every campus the teams visit, perhaps even worse on some campuses, and the Aggies and Tigers will face the best defensive lines in the world . One LSU senior quipped, “I don’t think they (Missouri) fit culturally. I don’t know if they have a rabid fan base, or have enough tradition to play in the SEC. I feel like when they join the SEC, they won’t be competitive at all. They’re going to be like Vanderbilt. They’ll be our new Vanderbilt.”(Wonder if this guy has heard of Vandy coach James Franklin).
There will be culture changes, even some culture shock in some areas, for both schools. How quickly the Aggies and Tigers can adjust and overcome, will determine how well they will compete in the SEC. On Sept. 8, both Texas A&M will open the SEC era, at home; the Tigers facing Georgia and the Aggies hosting Florida. They could be so excited, they play over their heads and pull off upset wins. But their return to earth could be devastating when they go on the road in the SEC for the first time ever. That’s when both schools will know, this is really “big-boy” football.
Contact Randy Smith at email@example.com
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 42 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer, author and is also a media concepts teacher at Red Bank High School in Chattanooga. He is currently teaching an "Intro To Sportscasting" class at Red Bank, the only class of its type in Tennessee. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 10 years. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry Davey and Alison Smith). They also have two grandchildren (Coleman and Boone).