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Climer: SEC fans, don't underestimate Missouri, Texas A&M

11:22 AM, Sep 7, 2012   |    comments
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David Climer, Tennessean

Writers, broadcasters, bloggers, tweeters and everything else that falls under the general heading of modern media are just as provincial as college football fans.

We tend to gravitate to what we know best. It's our comfort zone.

Around here, we're awash in the wonders of SEC football. When the conference we cover has won the last six national championships, we tend to think it's where the game has been reinvented, refined and improved.

And we're right, of course.

Be that as it may, we also can get a little carried away about the manner in which football business is conducted in these parts. We tend to believe that new arrivals Missouri and Texas A&M are in for a rude awakening, that their quick-trigger, spread offenses will be rendered null and void by SEC defenses, where linemen routinely run down tailbacks.

I suspect we are the ones in for a rude awakening.

I'm not saying Missouri will win the SEC East and Texas A&M will rule the SEC West. Each figures to be middle-of-the-pack, at best.

But it would be a major mistake to write off either one as an easy out. And that starts on Saturday.

Georgia will have all it can handle at Missouri, and Florida faces a serious challenge at A&M. I expect one of the SEC newcomers to win, and I wouldn't be shocked if both made victorious debuts.

A brief history lesson: When the SEC last expanded in 1992, Arkansas and South Carolina made their marks. Just ask John Majors. In a three-week stretch that October, the Razorbacks and Gamecocks beat Tennessee. Those games were sandwiched around UT's loss to Alabama and cost Majors his job.

By 1994, Arkansas was playing in the SEC Championship game. It took 18 years and three coaching changes for South Carolina to get there.

Missouri already is making waves. Defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson fired the first salvo last weekend when he said Georgia played "old-man football." Worse yet, he said watching Georgia is "like watching Big Ten football."

In SEC territory, there is no bigger slap in the face than being put in the same category as the Big Ten. See: Alabama 41, Michigan 14.

I understand why players from Missouri and Texas A&M have gotten fed up. Since their programs landed in the SEC, players have been quizzed repeatedly about how they expected to match up with their new competition.

It was the overwhelming line of questioning during SEC Media Days in July. Back then, Mizzou wide receiver T.J. Moe finally had enough with the media's constant harping on the transition to the SEC. Moe put tongue firmly in cheek and said what he assumed everybody wanted to hear about the move to the SEC:

"The girls are prettier, the air is fresher and the toilet paper is thicker."

Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, a potential first-round NFL draft pick if he decides to declare after this season, was a bit more judicious.

"Everybody knows the SEC is the best conference in the country," he said, "but we've been playing some pretty good teams since I got to A&M."

It won't take long for the newcomers to prove they belong.

David Climer's columns appear on Friday, Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. Contact him at

615-259-8020 or dclimer@tennessean.com

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