HOOVER, Ala. — The two incoming members to the Southeastern Conference have been welcomed to the league by being told they’ve been playing inferior football in the past.
And in all honestly, the University of Missouri and Texas A&M University are quite sick of hearing that the Big 12 opponents they defeated before their arrival in its new home don’t matter.
“We played in a pretty good football league ourselves,” Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said. “We understand the great league we’re coming into. It’s all going to play out. We all know how it works. It’s in the process. How is Missouri and Texas A&M going to do in the SEC, there’s going to be an analysis every single week.”
Pinkel, who has a summer home in Florida and has been bombarded with questions about the perceived upgrade in league competition, said Tuesday at the 2012 SEC football media days that he still doesn’t know how to emotionally take this analysis made by others.
“People act like we’ve been playing a bunch of high school teams,” Pinkel said. “We’ve played in a pretty big league. I don’t think it’s a chip necessarily. This analysis of Missouri and Texas A&M coming from the Big 12, which certainly was, but is a really good league most of the years we were there without question nationally…it’s going to take place, it’s going to happen.”
Pinkel, who has taken Missouri to the ninth-most wins in college football history since 2007 (48), brings in a program that has qualified for five straight bowl games and owns a winning all-time series record over nine of the 13 SEC opponents in school history. During that period Missouri has averaged giving up less than 25 points per game in that stretch.
“I don’t think it’s any different than this league,” Pinkel said, “We recruit how we recruit. We’re not doing anything different in terms of player development. We understand that. We understand the offenses are considerably different (and) I think overall in this league as compared to what we played in the Big 12.”
One reporter during the first day of the 2012 SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala., even asked a question referring to the Big 12 Conference as college football’s version of junior varsity football.
“We’ve played in big games at Missouri against Heisman Trophy winners and nationally-ranked teams,” Missouri defensive back E.J. Grimes said. “I played junior varsity football in high school and it’s nothing like the Big 12. I can understand why Coach Pinkel would get a little angry and upset over questions like that.”
First-year Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin, who took the University of Houston to the Conference USA title game last season, immediately shot down the jump to the SEC can be used for an excuse as to potential struggles for his Aggie program.
“Everybody talks to me and acts like I didn’t know what I was getting into when I took the job,” Sumlin said. “We had already entered into the SEC under the agreement when I took the job.”
The Aggies, who are 1-15 since 2003 against schools ranked in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll, lost only eight starters on both sides of the football but will be trying to switch from a 3-4 defensive scheme to a 4-3 front with smaller lineman near the line of scrimmage.
“We led the country in sacks, (last year) but we were 106th or 108th in pass defense so that’s a feast or famine type of defense and we’ve got to be more consistent across the board as a football team,” Sumlin said. “Defensively we’ve got to take some chances, but we can’t have that big of a chasm between statistics.”
One thing is for sure for both the third and fourth schools to the join the SEC in the history of the league: expansion. Both campuses can’t wait to host their first game and prove people wrong in their new league.
Even though we get a lot of the ‘you’re from the Big 12; you’ve never played football like this (comments),” Aggies linebacker Sean Porter said. “We feel like people are excited to have us in the SEC, just like we’re excited to be in it. We can’t wait to play.”
The date of the two programs arrival officially to the SEC is on Sept. 8 as Missouri hosts the University of Georgia after Texas A&M hosts the University of Florida both on ESPN that evening.
“What’s my assessment (of the SEC),” Sumlin said. “It’s a pretty damn hard league. How is that? That’s my assessment.”
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