‘Bring your A-game.’ Is Oklahoma, Texas ready for the SEC? Let Mizzou tell the story

As Missouri prepared for its first season as an SEC member in 2012, Tigers wide receiver TJ Moe uniquely explained his anticipation for the league: “They say the girls are prettier here, the The air is cooler and the toilet paper is thicker,” Moe said in one of the most memorable lines ever uttered on SEC media days.

Eleven years later, was Moe onto something?

“People want to be there, and they want to play there and they want to compete against the SEC. So you’re right, TJ Moe,” former Missouri athletic director Mike Alden said recently after I reminded him of Moe’s quip.

The SEC is gearing up to grow again with two more Big 12 defectors.

Officials from Oklahoma and Texas will attend the SEC Spring Meetings, which begin Tuesday in Miramar Beach, Florida. The two schools cannot yet vote on the issues, but their presence will mark a transition to their new conference. The SEC will be 16 strong in 2024.

Former Missouri coach Gary Pinkel described the SEC adding these first two Big 12 marks as “a gigantic move” that “made a statement.”

But are the OU and Texas ready to make a statement to the SEC? Missouri showed it was possible.

Respect SEC competition, but don’t put it on a pedestal

As a student at Truman State in Kirksville, Missouri, I watched Pinkel lead Missouri to its Big 12 heyday from afar. The Tigers won 40 games in four seasons from 2007-2010. took a closer look at Pinkel’s Tigers while working as a sportswriter for the Columbia Daily Tribune during Pinkel’s final seasons.

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Pinkel and Missouri made the conference change transparent. The SEC East didn’t have its fiercest punch when Missouri joined. Tennessee was down, Florida was down, and Georgia wasn’t what it would become under Kirby Smart.

Missouri broke through and won the SEC East in its second season in the conference before repeating as a division winner in 2014.

While Pinkel describes the SEC as “college football’s greatest league,” he’s optimistic about Texas and Oklahoma’s prospects for success.

“I think both teams will do well. I think they fit into the top third (of the SEC), whatever those top thirds are. People come in and out (of the top third) all the time. time,” Pinkel told me recently. “The league has been going for the best. That’s the attitude of (the SEC).

Pinkel shared two transition tips. First, prepare for physics. “Tack to tackle, even average teams are really good up front,” he said. Georgia’s national championship teams have been the epitome of an SEC team’s dominance in the trenches.

Pinkel’s other view: As solid as the conference is, don’t put it on a pedestal. He believes he did this in Missouri’s freshman year in the SEC and believes it negatively affected the Tigers’ performance.

“I wanted to let them know that this is not a normal league. I am responsible for doing so. But, maybe I overdid it,” Pinkel said.

After meeting with his captains ahead of the 2013 season, Pinkel corrected his course. The program embraced an attitude of: Let’s go play.

Missouri’s cumulative conference winning percentage in 11 SEC seasons is .456. His conference winning percentage in 16 years in the Big 12 was .488. In other words, the SEC has been tougher on Missouri, on average, but not drastically. And Pinkel’s retirement after the 2015 season might have as much to do with that trend as the conference switch.

Texas A&M joined the SEC the same year as Missouri. His conference winning percentage in the SEC is .539, following a .527 winning percentage in Big 12 play.

SEC success requires urgency and cohesion

Alden summed up the mentality of the SEC in one word: urgency.

From facilities projects to field maintenance to staff moves to the university healthcare system, this conference calls for increased urgency.

“To be successful, you have to have everyone on deck — and I mean way outside of athletics,” said Alden, who was instrumental in getting Missouri into the SEC. He retired in 2015 after 17 years as AD.

Alden is curious how Texas will make the transition.

The Longhorns wielded an oversized sword in the Big 12. They launched their own television network in 2011. This became a point of contention within the Big 12, as did the uneven distribution of conference revenue. The Longhorn Network will end to coincide with Texas’ pivot into the SEC.

“That’s the amazing thing about the SEC. Everyone in this room has an equal seat at the table, and Texas isn’t used to that,” Alden said. “It’s absolutely not in their DNA, so I’ll be interested to see how they are able to adapt.”

Texas and Oklahoma each participated in Missouri joining the SEC. The Longhorns were part of a Big 12 six-pack that flirted with the Pac-12 in 2010. Texas stayed put but continued to cast a long shadow in the Big 12, and the realignment wheels were on the move. .

Colorado went to the Pac-12 and Nebraska moved to the Big Ten. A year later, the SEC took over Texas A&M in 2011.

In September 2011, OU President David Boren announced that the Sooners did not intend to be “a wallflower” amid the realignment. Boren’s comment set off alarm bells in Missouri.

“At least from our perspective, there was no trust (within the Big 12),” Alden said.

Two months later, it became official. Missouri was tied to the SEC.

Now, OU and Texas are gearing up to reunite with the Tigers and Aggies in the SEC.

“You better bring your A-game,” Pinkel said.

Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Is Oklahoma, Texas football ready for the SEC? Let Mizzou tell the story

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