ST. LOUIS (AP) — Before Missouri dives headfirst into its first Southeastern Conference schedule, the Tigers will have an opportunity to iron out a few kinks.
Southeastern Louisiana serves as the warm-up act on Saturday night for the Tigers, who open SEC play next weekend against No. 6 Georgia. Nobody can deny the anticipation nor the feeling that the opener is just something they must get through.
"We don't know anything about them," wide receiver T.J. Moe said. "They have new coaches. We're hardly even watching film of their players. We look a little bit just to kind of see who's doing what."
The looming SEC schedule feels much like 2011 for junior quarterback James Franklin, coming off his first year as the starter as well as shoulder surgery in March.
"It's going to be a little different, but at the same time, the same as last year," Franklin said. "So I think I can relate. But at the same time I can take a lot that I learned last year and apply it and do a little better."
The sooner preparations for Georgia can begin the better.
"That's one thing we want to try to focus on. Just get this first game done, and after that start working toward Georgia," Franklin said.
It's coach Gary Pinkel's job to make sure players don't buy too heavily into that attitude, but he realizes it's a tougher task this year.
"The really good teams do not prepare differently because they play a team that is better or worse than another team," Pinkel said. "If you do that, you are not going to be very good, you are going to be very inconsistent and you are going to have major problems as the season goes on."
Missouri was 8-5 last year, has been to a school-record seven consecutive bowl games under Pinkel and has a 10-game winning streak in season openers. The Tigers are averaging 10 wins the last four seasons, and Franklin, Moe and defensive end Brad Madison are on various preseason award watch lists.
Southeastern Louisiana first-year coach Ron Roberts, who won 47 games in five years at Division II Delta State, makes his debut against an FBS coach who is 8-0 against the lower division by an average score of 48-6.
Pinkel's response: So what?
"This is more about Mizzou," he said. "I do not care who we are playing, this is about us playing our best game."
Franklin directs a spread offense that was well-balanced last year, averaging 244 yards passing and 231.5 rushing, and has proven players at the skill positions even without All-Big 12 tailback Henry Josey, who has had two operations for a knee injury sustained last November and has been ruled out for this season.