(Missouri Football App) ATLANTA—Awkward. That is the word that keeps coming to mind as Missouri plays for the SEC Championship on Saturday.
It doesn’t mean that the SEC isn’t rolling out the red carpet for the Tigers, because they are. It doesn’t mean that Missouri fans aren’t stoked with trying to win the SEC. They are.
The problem is that both parties just aren’t quite sure what to make of one another. It is the college football equivalent of a first date.
When the University of Missouri leapt into the SEC it was a business deal that clearly was good for the Tigers, but was not exactly the spot the fan base or administration was thinking they would land in. Missouri wanted to make the Big XII work. But Texas didn’t want that. Then the Big Ten looked like it was going to be the spot for the Tigers. That didn’t work out either.
Then out of mid-air the SEC winked at Missouri and next thing you know two years later the Tigers win the SEC East and are here in Atlanta playing for the most coveted prize in the conference. An SEC Title.
For the SEC they didn’t exactly come after Missouri first either. Texas was the first choice. That didn’t work out. There were others out there, but then all of a sudden the two institutions exchanged glances and the rest is history. For both parties it was for the best.
Missouri got a stable league and good revenues. The SEC got the St. Louis and Kansas City television markets. Win-Win.
Despite that marriage both sides are still growing into it. Missouri is happy to be here, but does not have the SEC pedigree.
Down here in SEC land rivalries run deep. Alabama fans hate Auburn. Georgia fans hate Florida and on down the line. Hatred of other programs is what has built this league into the most watchable and most competitive college football conference in the country. The problem for the SEC and Missouri is no one hates Mizzou and Mizzou hates no one. That confuses SEC fans.
The fans you hear in Atlanta don’t know what to make of Missouri. The media you hear in Atlanta are confused on who is playing the villain role. Certain schools, i.e. Alabama, can’t stand Auburn so that will throw them into the Mizzou camp. But there is no good guy/bad guy relationship to be had in this game. That drama is what the SEC lives on.
Someday in the future Missouri will have those enemies. The fans will have the hatred of Arkansas, Tennessee and Georgia like they once had for Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska. But until that day, it is time for the first awkward date. SEC get to know Missouri. Missouri get to know the SEC.
Both sides are growing into this relationship. SEC Championships build those rivalries. No one expected Missouri to be here this quickly but much like their road to joining the SEC things don’t happen as you expect sometimes.
A chance at a National Championship hangs in the balance and the first true SEC moment for the Tigers awaits on Saturday in Atlanta.