Mike Kern: SEC play begins for Missouri, Texas A&M

Posted: September 07, 2012

WELCOME TO the new digs.

On Saturday, Missouri hosts Georgia, while Texas A&M will host Florida. These are not intersectional matchups. They count in the SEC standings.

The way this stuff is headed, one day you might just see San Diego State in South Philly playing a Big East tilt against Temple.

Everyone understands these moves are all about the cash. It's why Nebraska is now in the Big Ten and Colorado's affiliated with the Left Coast. But it's not as if the SEC added Southern California or Oklahoma.

The last time Missouri won an outright championship was 52 years ago in the Big 8. The Tigers did make it to the Big 12 title game in 2007 and '08, but each time they were thumped by Oklahoma. Texas A&M upset Kansas State in the Big 12 finale in 1998 but never got that far again.

The Aggies somehow went 7-6 a year ago, blowing too many halftime leads with a top eight NFL draft pick (Ryan Tannehill) at quarterback. Not shockingly, that cost Mike Sherman his gig. The new boss is Kevin Sumlin, who was 12-1 a year ago at Houston (he left before the bowl win over Penn State). His team wasn't picked to win the West Division, even though it does get Arkansas and LSU at home.

Neither has Missouri been projected to take the somewhat more user-friendly East. Gary Pinkel, entering his 12th season, is coming off 8-5. The Tigers won five of their last six, a roll that began with a 38-31 overtimer at A&M.

Missouri gets Alabama at home on Oct. 13. And the Tigers lead that series, 2-1. Too bad the Tide will be coming off a bye. Or maybe it won't matter. The Tigers faced Georgia once before, a 14-0 loss in the 1960 Orange Bowl.

This is the third meeting between A&M and UF, but first since the 1977 Sun Bowl. The Gators are 1-7-2 in the state of Texas, with that one coming at Rice in 1977.

Transitions aren't meant to be smooth. Nebraska lost its Big Ten opener, at Wisconsin, 48-17. Utah dropped its first Pac-12 game at Southern Cal, 23-14. And Colorado also went down at Cal, 36-33.

As for their replacements in the 10-team Big 12 (as opposed to the 12-team Big Ten), West Virginia debuts on Sept. 29 at Baylor. The Mountaineers are at Texas the following week (and host Oklahoma Nov. 17). The polls suggest they may be an immediate factor. Maybe that's what hanging 70 on Clemson in a bowl does for someone's rep.

TCU, one of four schools that didn't make the Big 12 cut when the Big 8 and SWC merged in the mid-1990s, at least used to play Baylor, Texas and Texas Tech. The Frogs, who like WVU are ranked, open at Kansas next week.

Trivial pursuit

When Missouri won the Big 8 in 1960, who was its coach? Hint: He won a national title at another school. See Answer Man.

Big East bits

* Pitt's 31-17 loss to Youngstown State snapped the conference's 57-game winning streak against FCS teams going back to Rutgers-New Hampshire in September 2004. Since then, the Big East was the only FBS conference that hadn't had an FCS loss. Paul Chryst, who seems as if he's about the 10th Panthers coach in the last 6 months, will get a shot at Gardner-Webb on Sept. 22. First, he has to deal with Cincinnati and Virginia Tech. Pitt had been 10-0 against FCS opponents.

* Speaking of Cincy, the Bearcats won't play their first true road game until Oct. 20 at Toledo. Later this month, they do get Virginia Tech in Landover, Md.

* Jeremy Wright just became the first Louisville back to score three touchdowns in a game since Brock Bolen in 2008. Wright did it against Kentucky. Bolen did it against Middle Tennessee State.

Answer Man

That would be Dan Devine. And 17 years later, at Notre Dame, his team finished No. 1.

Spotlight on Texas State

Three programs made the move to FBS this season. Masschusetts, now in the MAC, opened with a 37-0 loss at Connecticut. South Alabama (Sun Belt), which has been playing only since 2009, fell at home by two on a late field goal to Texas-San Antonio. UTSA, coached by the same Larry Coker who took Miami to a national title a decade ago, didn't play its first game until a year ago. And then there was Texas State, which has been around for more than a century and won the Southland title in 2008. The Bobcats, who are part of the WAC, won at Houston, 30-13.

Located in San Marcos, TSU (with an enrollment of more than 20,000) is the fifth-largest university in Lone Star country. The Bobcats are coached by Dennis Franchione. Surely, you remember him. He was the head guy here in 1990 and '91 before going New Mexico, which got him to TCU (where he had LaDainian Tomlinson), Alabama and Texas A&M. He took over last year, after being out of the game since 2007, and went 6-6 (one more win than the season before). He has 16 starters back.

Houston, playing its first regular-season game for Tony Levine, was favored by five touchdowns. The Bobcats, who last beat an FBS team in 2000 (Louisiana-Monroe), became only the seventh underdog of 34 points or more to win since 1980. And the only one to win by more than a TD. Shades of Temple-Virginia Tech in 1998.

So where do you go from there? Well, this week they host Texas Tech, which beat them, 50-10, in last year's opener. The Bobcats have won their last 16 home openers. This one is expected to be a sellout (30,000).

"We were just trying to go out and earn our respect from everyone," said senior running back Marcus Curry, who scored three touchdowns. "We just got to do what we got to do."

Sidelines

SMALLS STUFF

* Widener, No. 25 in Division III, beat Western Connecticut, 63-17. It's a program record for points in an opener. This week, the Pride is at King's, a team it beat last year, 70-0, which broke the program mark for most lopsided victory.

* Ursinus (1-0) hosts Gettysburg (1-0). The last 3 years, the scores have been 55-50, 49-39 and 41-34 (on a final-play Hail Mary). Gettysburg opened with a 7-0 win over Misericordia. So what's the over-under? "I'm not sure what that means," said Ursinus coach Pete Gallagher, though no one was buying it. "I'm not a betting man. I just know you can keep the punters on hold."

COUCH POTATO

THURSDAY

8 Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, ESPN

FRIDAY

8 Utah at Utah State, ESPN2

SATURDAY

Noon Penn State at Virginia, 6ABC

Noon Auburn at Mississippi State, ESPN

Noon Central Florida at Ohio State, ESPN2

Noon New Hampshire at Minnesota, Big Ten

Noon Maryland at Temple, ESPNU

Noon Miami at Kansas State, FX

12:30 Ball State at Clemson, CW57

3:30 Air Force at Michigan, ESPN2

3:30 Purdue at Notre Dame, NBC10

3:30 Florida at Texas A&M, ESPN

3:30 USC at Syracuse, 6ABC

3:30 Iowa State at Iowa, Big Ten

3:30 Delaware State at Delaware, NBCSN

3:30 Michigan State at Central Michigan, ESPNU

4 Wisconsin at Oregon State, FX

7 Washington at LSU, ESPN

7 Louisiana-Monroe at Arkansas, ESPNU

7:30 Nebraska at UCLA, FOX29

7:30 Army at San Diego State, NBCSN

7:45 Georgia at Missouri, ESPN2

8 Vanderbilt at Northwestern, Big Ten

10:30 Illinois at Arizona State, ESPN

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