By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – An event that has been nearly a year in the making and has been eagerly anticipated by many Southeastern Conference fans is finally upon us.
On Saturday, new league members Missouri and Texas A&M will play their first conference football games as a member of the SEC. As part of the SEC’s scheduling format for the 2012 season, both programs were afforded the opportunity to play their first league contests in front of their home faithful.
Florida (1-0) at Texas A&M (0-0) * 2:30 p.m. CT * ESPN * College Station, Texas
Georgia (1-0) at Missouri (1-0) * 6:45 p.m. CT * ESPN2 * Columbia, Mo.
The anticipation among the SEC fan base has been palpable over the past year, monitoring the conference’s official Facebook and Twitter pages. Fans of the league’s two new schools have been among the most active on the SEC Digital Network and its social media platforms, excited to be a part of the first-ever 14-team SEC.
It marks the first time that new members of the conference will compete in football since the 1992 season when Arkansas and South Carolina joined the league.
When Georgia travels to Missouri on Saturday, it won’t be the first time that the Bulldogs are welcoming a new team to the conference. On September 5, 1992, Georgia defeated South Carolina 28-6 in Columbia in the Gamecocks’ first-ever SEC contest.
When Arkansas joined the conference in 1992, the Razorbacks opened their season against the Citadel before squaring off with fellow newcomer South Carolina on Sept. 12. The Razorbacks were victorious in their first-ever league game, 45-7 in Columbia.
Florida will face the Aggies in Texas A&M’s first game of the 2012 season after its opener with Louisiana Tech was postponed until mid-October due to weather issues related to Hurricane Issac. The national microscope will be centered upon Kyle Field on Saturday as ESPN’s College Gameday has already announced that it will be venturing to College Station to cover the event.
It will be the first meeting between the two teams since the 1977 Sun Bowl, which Texas A&M won 37-14. Surprisingly, despite Florida’s stellar history, the Gators are just 1-7-2 all-time when playing in the state of Texas.
Another first will take place in College Station on Saturday, as it will mark the first game of Kevin Sumlin’s career as the head coach at Texas A&M. Sumlin, the architect of the Houston program and a two-time National Coach of the Year finalist, begins his tenure with high expectations for taking the Aggies to the next level.
Georgia will take on the Tigers, who are coming off a 62-10 win against Southeastern Louisiana last Saturday. Missouri may have the reputation of being a “basketball school,” but SEC fans are about to find out about the Tigers’ gridiron prowess.
Missouri has logged eight or more wins in each of the last six seasons, including three 10-plus win seasons during that span.
Missouri and Georgia will be meeting for just the second time in the history of the two programs. The Bulldogs claimed a 14-0 win against the Tigers in the 1960 Orange Bowl. The game featured a pair of coaching legends, as Wally Butts led Georgia and Dan Devine, who later went on to coach the Green Bay Packers and Notre Dame Fighting Irish, squared off against one another on the sidelines.
It will be a fun first for a pair of SEC teams this weekend, but what is even more exciting is that it is the beginning of a foundation that will add to the conference’s rich football tradition.