In Second Year As Part Of SEC, Mizzou Looks For Rivals And Brings In Wins | KCUR

In Second Year As Part Of SEC, Mizzou Looks For Rivals And Brings In Wins

Oct 9, 2013

The Southeastern Conference logo at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tenn.
Credit Greg Echlin / KCUR

The Kansas City Chiefs aren’t the only area football team with a 5-0 record. On the major college level, the Missouri Tigers are 5-0 and ranked number 25 in this week’s Associated Press poll.

The Tigers opened their Southeastern Conference schedule last Saturday with a victory over Vanderbilt University. The Tigers head deeper south this weekend to face the 7th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs. It’s still an adjustment period for fans following the Tigers in their second year of the SEC.

The Missouri Tigers opened up with a sizable lead at Vanderbilt Stadium, and singer Sheryl Crow roamed beneath the grandstands unnoticed near the Missouri Tigers seating section. Wearing an orange-colored top, she could pass as a fan of the Tennessee Volunteers rather than the Tigers. But Crow grew up in the boot heel area of the state, and she says her allegiance to the Tigers dates back to her childhood when Missouri was in the Big 8 Conference.

"I love the rivalry between Oklahoma State and KU. But I live in Nashville now, so it’s worked out great that I could drive across town and see my team," she says. "I'm hoping they do really well."

As for the new conference rivalries?

"I’m sure we’ll eventually feel the history," Crow says.

Eventually. The Tigers were placed in the SEC’s East Division. As a result, they’re not playing in the same division as the Arkansas Razorbacks, who would be regarded as MU’s best SEC border rival. Even Vanderbilt fans like Nashville native Rusty Jackson don’t quite know what to make of the fit between MU and the SEC.

"It’s definitely different because they’re not really in the southeast," he says.

The win Saturday night satisfied Tiger fans much better than a year ago when Mizzou lost at home against the Commodores. With a 51-28 victory this year, the Tigers not only got their conference season off on the right foot, they equaled the number of victories from all of last year.

Mizzou had a rocky start to 2012, after bolting from the Big 12. Still, coach Gary Pinkel, who is in his 13th season as the Tigers’ head coach, claims last year wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be. 

"If I’d have done a better job coaching, we would have won one more game and gone to a bowl. OK?" he says.

At the Tiger Club of Kansas City merting this week, they chattered about the victorious weekend in Nashville. They also relished the Kansas Jayhawks loss against Texas Tech, though it has no bearing on Mizzou’s future.

Tiger fan John Cartee admits the best rivalry remains between MU and KU, two teams that aren’t scheduled to play each other.

"It’s still been a good rivalry and it still is because I know a lot of Missouri fans that watch the KU games just to see if they get beat," says Cartee. "I mean that’s kind of maybe selfish to say, but a lot of fans do. Of course, a lot of their fans watch us hoping that we’re going to get beat."

As far as developing new football rivals in the SEC, MU fans feel it will take time. Paul Blackman, an attorney and active Tiger Club member, cites another well-known rivalry as an example.

 Look at Kansas City-Oakland, the Raiders and the Chiefs, there’s no geographical reason but they were such bitter rivals for so long, so it develops that way," Blackman says.

So no one questions anymore why Oakland and San Diego—two teams from the west—play in the NFL’s AFC West. Perhaps the day will come when MU fans will no longer wonder why the Tigers—situated more in the west—play football in the SEC East.