About 31/2 hours before kickoff, Kansas State athletic director John Currie was getting antsy. Evening games will do that, especially for a sellout opener of a ranked team. But something felt different about this day to Currie. Then he remembered.Last year at this time we werent talking about football, he said.At least not in the way football is usually discussed on campus, around the tailgate or sports bar: Hows the team, whos the quarterback?Realignment was the buzzword on Labor Day weekend 2011. Texas A&M had just announced it was leaving the Big 12. Oklahoma was packing for the Pac-12 with Oklahoma State in the sidecar. For the second time in as many years, uncertainty gripped the conference.Oklahoma president David Boren had uttered the phrase I dont think theres any chance OUs going to end up being a wallflower that put Missouris head on a swivel. The next day, the schools power brokers met at the Faurot Field press box rooftop and set the wheels in motion for Southeastern Conference inclusion.Saturday, it arrives in full force when Georgia visits Columbia.SEC logos have been stenciled, revenue withheld by the Big 12, billboards erected, funds raised, recruiting boundaries expanded, and in days the words become pad-crashing deeds.The pregame that started 10 months ago with the SEC announcement/pep rally concludes with Saturdays first snap. (In another year it would have been kickoff, but with the new rules the first action likely will be a ball soaring through the end zone). With Missouris new life approaching, the unfamiliarity factor will soon begin to disappear.Missouri hasnt dealt with SEC defensive speed. SEC teams dont often prep for a spread attack as sophisticated as the Tigers.Ive asked plenty of football folks about this idea and have received conflicting responses. Just look at Steve Spurriers changed philosophy, a coach told me. The old ball coach has shelved the Fun n Gun, from his Florida days and competes at South Carolina with a power running game and defense.But another coach pointed out the early successes of Joe Tiller at Purdue and Mike Leach at Texas Tech upon introducing spread ideas to their conferences.This is the ultimate round peg in a square hole of realignment. SEC folks are convinced no offense stands up to their quality of defensive athlete and scheme, and they have recent history as recent as Saturday nights Alabama containment of Michigan and quarterback Denard Robinson to support them.The Crimson Tide will be a major concern for Mizzou on Oct. 13. But with Georgia on their mind this week, the Tigers see opportunity.The Bulldogs were a 38-point favorite over a Buffalo team they defeated by 22 on Saturday. At halftime, Buffalo had amassed 243 yards of total offense, and home fans unleashed some boos when the Bulls, not expected to be a Mid-American Conference division contender, closed to eight late in the first half.Player suspensions played a role. Four projected starters didnt suit up for Georgia, and the punishment for at least two of them will carry through this weekend.The Bulldogs adjusted and played a more effective second half. Theyll build on that heading to Missouri for a game that, along with the festive atmosphere, may carry great meaning for the division race after opening-weekend impressions.What was the best East Division performance this weekend? Not Georgias. South Carolina gets props for winning at Vandy, but the Commodores had to feel like one got away. Florida got all it wanted from Bowling Green. Id say Tennessee and quarterback Tyler Bray, who opened eyes against North Carolina State.The Tigers played the meekest foe in Southeastern Louisiana, but handled business in a 52-point thumping on a night when the fans were as impressive as the team. A steady rain didnt dampen the enthusiasm. There were about 4,000 more in the house than for last years opener against a better team in Miami, Ohio.That was the day athletic director Mike Alden and chancellor Brady Deaton stood on the press-box roof and began to alter the course of Missouri athletics. The change has become reality, and Saturday, with the first snap, the Tigers will know how it feels to be in the SEC.
Posted on Sun, Sep. 02, 2012 09:28 PMShare Email Print Order Reprints
With Saturdays first snap, realignment becomes real for Mizzou
To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.