HOOVER, Ala. - While Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin in some ways downplayed his team's SEC opener against Florida, Missouri's Gary Pinkel offered no such pretensions.
"This is obviously a huge game for our program," Pinkel said. "Normally, you never look past the first game, but we also understand the historical significance for Missouri."
Earlier this week, the SEC announced that the game Sept. 8 between the Bulldogs and Tigers will kickoff at 7:45 p.m. and be televised by ESPN2.
"It's going to be a lot like the Oklahoma atmosphere in 2010 when they were No. 1 in the country," Missouri wide receiver T.J. Moe said. "We think it's going to be the same kind of thing. But we're not scared of anybody. Some people may think we're intimidated, but I think maybe it's the media being intimidated and not the players."
Missouri offensive tackle Elvis Fisher agreed.
Unlike most of his teammates, Fisher is no stranger to the SEC as he grew up in St. Petersburg, Fla., where he followed - among other teams - the Florida Gators.
"I think we have something to prove every year, just to ourselves. We've got to go out there and get better every week; do our best every week. That's what we are focused on," said Fisher, who missed all of last year with a torn patella tendon. "But everybody's talking about that first game against Georgia. It's pretty hard not to."
He knows the entire country will be watching.
"Everyone is focused on Georgia; it's the first SEC game. Heck, I'm focused on it. No doubt about it. Everybody is going to be all eyes on that game - it's Missouri's first game in the SEC and of course, Georgia is not going to want to come in and lose to us," Fisher added. "They're going to try to welcome us to the SEC. We know it's going to be a challenge."
Tiger cornerback E.J. Gaines said he and the rest of Missouri's defense will have its own point to prove.
Ever since it was announced that the Tigers would be joining the SEC, Gaines said all he and his defensive mates have heard is how fast, how strong and tough its defenses are.
Gaines said the Tigers aren't bad themselves.
"I think we (Missouri's defense) will do great things in the SEC. People doubt us, saying we're not physical enough," he said. "But I definitely think we're physical. We're fast; we're strong. It will really come down to the scheme of the game which is something we will have to change."
He claims facing Bulldog quarterback Aaron Murray will be a unique challenge.
"I look at him as one of the better quarterbacks in the SEC," said Gaines, who ranked fourth in the NCAA with 18 defended passes. "He throws the ball well, his receivers get open and his offensive line gives him time to throw. He stays in the pocket and he doesn't like to get out that early."
Of course, the Tigers hope a rowdy game day atmosphere will help take Murray out of his game.
"We think it's a great college game day experience; I think our fans go crazy," Pinkel said of Missouri. "We know the SEC is a great league. But we want to prove that we belong to it, as fans as well as coaches and players. I think you'll see a place that's very electric. They'll go wild and that's probably an understatement."
Fisher added there's little doubt about that.
"I like night games, because under the lights, it's a bright stadium … it's not as hot," he said. "But no, it's going to be great; fans screaming, everyone jumping around … high-level competition. It should be pretty good."
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