I can't help but feel really positive about the SEC debuts of newest members, Texas A&M and Missouri. Not necessarily the two football teams, but the schools themselves. Even though I earlier had proudly stated that one of the two would score an upset this past weekend, both the Aggies and Tigers lost tough battles with Florida and Georgia. ESPN's "College Game Day" was on hand in College Station, Texas and the Aggies' fans turned out to be "SEC Ready." So were the Tiger fans in Missouri who never gave up, though Georgia ended the game on a 32-3 run, winning 41-20.
During the summer months, when I would write about either school, I would always receive nice, positive emails about how excited the fans were to be joining the SEC. The correspondence that I received from fans and university personnel alike would always boast of game day traditions on both campuses; some I can't wait to experience on my own.
One thing was very evident in both games on Saturday; Florida and Georgia each taught our newest members a good lesson in the SEC's brand of "smash-mouth" football. Texas A&M led the Gators 17-10 at halftime, before the Gators roared back for a 20-17 victory. Now don't get me wrong, both games were very physical. But when it came to "crunch time", the Gators and Bulldogs put on a bit more steam.
In the SEC as well as any major football conference, there is much more to college football than just the game. Tailgating plays a big part, and in this "video age" we live in, an atractive campus, with active student life, is also very important. Texas A&M and Missouri each passed those tests with flying colors. I said it before and I will say it again; Texas A&M and Missouri are going to be great additions to the country's best conference.
Some other observations from last weekend:
The crowd at Neyland Stadium as the Vols blasted Georgia State 51-13, was the smallest I have ever seen at a Tennessee football game. The two biggest contributing factors were: a huge underdog for an opponent and rain, heavy at times, two hours before kickoff. The game with Florida this Saturday should be a sell out, as ESPN's "College Game Day" comes to Knoxville for the first time 2004. The game also features a battle between top 25 teams as the Vols made their first appearance in the polls since 2008, coming in at number 23. The Gators are ranked 18th this week. The Vols and Gators begin at 6:00 EDT.
A really tough loss for Coach Russ Heusman and the Mocs. They came from behind to tie Jacksonville State on the road 24-24, only to lose by a field goal as time expired, 27-24. UTC will host D-II Glenville State Thursday night at Finley Stadium in their first home game of the year. The Mocs need to get it together quickly as they play their Southern Conference opener next week against Appalachian State at Finley Stadium.
Finally, as we all expected, top-ranked Alabama and third-ranked LSU are living up to the pre-season hype. Both teams are 2-0 following impressive wins last weekend, and seem to be way ahead of any other SEC program at this point.
To quote former Tennessee quarterback Jeff Francis, "College football is a marathon, not just a race." I agree wholeheartedly.
Randy Smith firstname.lastname@example.org
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Red Bank High School in Chattanooga. 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 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).