Top 25 • Tigers' first game in new conference is against No. 7 Georgia.
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Colimbia, Mo. • The conference affiliation is brand new and the tailgaters no doubt will show up much earlier.
A new era has dawned at Missouri, which makes its Southeastern Conference debut on Saturday night against No. 7 Georgia, and there's no denying the excitement. Even coach Gary Pinkel failed to stick to his usual "it's the next game" script for more than a sentence or two on media day before gushing about the historic relevance like a season-ticket holder about to affix a tiger tail to his SUV.
"It's an important game. Our fans have been talking about it since March. It's huge," Pinkel said. "That place is going to be wild. All of that is great."
The atmosphere will be nothing like the opener, when there were about 10,000 empty seats on a rainy day that ended with a 62-10 rout of lower-division Southeastern Louisiana. It has been argued that the Week 2 matchup, bolstered by Georgia's ranking, is one of the biggest ever at Faurot Field.
There are plenty of firsts ahead, with top-ranked Alabama coming to town in October. So players know they can't afford to get too fired up for the Bulldogs.
"It's not a game-breaker either way," senior receiver T.J. Moe said. "If you come out and don't play your best, it's not really going to mess up your season. But you also would really like to come out and set the tone. When you play well early on in the season, you get a lot of confidence and your team really gets on the right track."
The buzz surrounding Missouri's SEC debut isn't lost on Georgia.
"Every athlete wants to be able to play in the 'big' game," defensive back Damian Swann said. "That's how you make a name for yourself and for the program."
Georgia could use some momentum after dropping a notch in the poll following a 45-23 opening victory over Buffalo, picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the MAC. Getting back some or all of the players from disciplinary suspension or injury would help.
The Bulldogs' defense might have trouble containing Missouri quarterback James Franklin, dangerous with his legs as much as his arm, if safety Bacarri Rambo and inside linebacker Alex Ogletree aren't back this week. Cornerback Sanders Commings and linebacker Chase Vasser are expected to serve out two-game suspensions for offseason arrests.
Big 12 TV deal • The Big 12 announced a new 13-year deal with ESPN and Fox Sports on Friday that is reportedly worth $2.6 billion and should provide long-term stability for a conference that once seemed on the brink of collapse.
The deal to televise football and men's basketball through 2024-25 includes a so-called "grant of rights" by each of the league's 10 schools. That allows the Big 12 to retain the media rights and accompanying revenue of any school that leaves the conference. Few would be expected to ever take such an expensive step.
Terms weren't released, but ESPN cited anonymous sources in reporting the contract was worth an average of about $20 million per school each year.
Saturday's college football TV schedule
• Penn State at Virginia, 10 a.m., Ch. 4
• Auburn at Mississippi State, 10 a.m., ESPN
• UCF at Ohio State, 10 a.m., ESPN2
• Tulane at Tulsa, 10 a.m., ROOT
• East Carolina at South Carolina, 10 a.m., Altitude
• New Hampshire at Minnesota, 10 a.m., Big Ten
• Miami at Kansas State, 10 a.m., FX
• Maryland at Temple, 10 a.m., ESPNU
• Weber State at BYU, 1 p.m., BYUtv
• Sacramento State at Colorado, 1 p.m., Pac-12
• Air Force at Michigan, 1:30 p.m., Ch. 4
• USC at Syracuse, 1:30 p.m., ESPN2
• Florida at Texas A&M, ESPN, 1:30 p.m.
• Rice at Kansas, 1:30 p.m., ROOT
• Purdue at Notre Dame, 1:30 p.m., Ch. 5
• Delaware State at Delaware, 1:30 p.m., NBCSN
• Colorado Mesa at No. Colorado, 1:30 p.m., Altitude
• Michigan State at Central Michigan, 1:30 p.m., ESPNU
• USF at Nevada, 1:30 p.m., CBSSN
• Iowa State at Iowa, 1:30 p.m., Big Ten
• Wisconsin at Oregon State, 2 p.m., FX
• Fresno State at Oregon, 4:30 p.m., Pac-12
• Idaho at Bowling Green, 5 p.m., Altitude
• Louisiana-Monroe at Arkansas, 5 p.m., ESPNU
• Washington at LSU, 5:30 p.m., ESPN
• Nebraska at UCLA, 5:30 p.m., Ch. 13
• Army at San Diego State, 5:30 p.m., NBCSN
• Georgia at Missouri, 5:45 p.m., ESPN2
• Vanderbilt at Northwestern, 6 p.m., Big Ten
• Louisiana Tech at Houston, 6 p.m., CBSSN
• Illinois at Arizona State, 8:30 p.m., ESPN