Missouri football's first game of their inaugural SEC season is almost here, squaring off against the Southeastern Louisiana Lions from the FCS's Southland Conference.
On the surface, it's a game that Missouri is expected to win, and has to win to avoid an epic embarrassment that SEC fans would never let them forget.
No one is giving Southeastern Louisiana much of a chance, and understandably so. But let's not forget that this is a game that has equal participants on both sides and that the rules of football will still apply.
We all remember the Appalachian State miracle at the Big House, and although it wasn't to an FCS school, Missouri had a meltdown of their own in 2001 when they lost the home opener to Bowling Green of the MAC.
The little guy lives for the upset and they all feel like they have a chance early in the first quarter.
With that in mind, we examine seven keys to this game that Missouri cannot overlook if they want to walk out of the first game looking like they should.
Be Tough Against the Run
Missouri was a solid team up front on defense in 2011, but things have been shuffled up a bit, and only one starter will be back on the defensive line in Brad Madison.
This could obviously be said for every game the Tigers are going to play in the run-heavy SEC, but the Tigers can never start too early in establishing good habits.
If Southeastern Louisiana backs find themselves breaking the initial layer of defense, they'll have one of the toughest SEC linebacking groups in Will Ebner, Andrew Wilson and Zaviar Gooden to deal with. But ideally, Missouri's new-look line should be able to handle this running attack if they plan to have any success in the SEC.
Don't Get Too Fancy
There's no need to try and catch any one-handed thrillers, dive with head and necks exposed or pull any funny business you'd only try playing a video game.
The level of excitement at Faurot Field is going to be very high, even for a game that's as low-profile as this one, and the players controlling their adrenaline and playing within their means will be key.
Gary Pinkel is great at making sure the team is ready and playing smart, but the temptation to play with a new chip on the shoulders is there, and players will be learning how to represent the SEC for the very first time.
Utilize Your Home Turf
And I mean literally. Missouri got a new FieldTurf surface installed over the offseason, replacing the dull and worn out one that had been there for several years.
After three scrimmages and several practices on the new surface, the players should have a very good idea of what its tenancies are and how they can make some solid cuts.
Southeastern Louisiana comes in familiar with FieldTurf, but many of the surfaces they are used to playing on are slightly aged, so Mizzou will have a distinct advantage knowing their new field's ins and outs.
Don't Give Them Any Confidence
It can not be stressed enough that the game of college football is far more of a mental game than most people acknowledge or give it credit for.
If the Lions are within a touchdown after the first quarter, they will gain confidence. If they're the same distance by halftime, they'll feel like they have a chance, and it will undoubtedly affect the rest of the game.
And it starts with small victories. Coming out strong and establishing themselves right off the bat in the first quarter will be key for Mizzou.
On the flip side, if the Tigers can come out and start forcing turnovers, it will be completely deflating and will likely make a long day for the Lions.
Make the Right Adjustments
Southeastern Louisiana will throw everything they have at the Tigers, and one of their strong points is their depth at running back. If the Lions can start finding holes in the running game, it will open up their ability to throw and Missouri will have to make the proper adjustments immediately.
On the other side of the ball, it would be hard to imagine the Lions holding the Missouri offense inept at moving the ball, but if this happens, Missouri needs to be prepared to making changes and knowing what to do next.
Inability and being unprepared is the essence of "overlooking" a team, and if Mizzou somehow falls into this trap, it will give the Lions a chance.
Make it a Victory By Committee
With so many questions about the Tigers' ability in the upcoming season, it will be imperative that they involve as many players as possible and get them the real-game experience they need to mesh properly before things get serious.
Probably the biggest catalyst of this would be the Mizzou wide receivers. Veteran T.J. Moe and true freshman phenom Dorial Green-Beckham will be leaders in this group, but they alone will not be able to give the Tigers success in the SEC.
Getting as many receivers involved as possible would be great for their confidence.
The same can also be said for the linebacking group, but in a different way. Gooden and Wilson will now have the support of the returning Will Ebner, and having this support will mean each player will have to carry less of the overall load.
Win the Fourth Quarter
It's as cliché as it gets, but starting out on the right foot for arguably the most important habit the Tigers must have in their new conference will be a must.
Games don't end in any quarter but the final one, and Missouri's conditioning workouts and facilities are among the best in the nation.
Regardless of the score and of who is on the field, Missouri must win the fourth quarter. This is another positive habit that Missouri has had in recent seasons, and starting off on the right foot in 2012 will be key to their overall success.
And if for some reason the Lions are still close at the start, winning the fourth will be even more important.
It may be easy for fans and players to overlook the Southeastern Louisiana Lions, but they know how to win football games. And you'd better believe they aren't making the trip up to Columbia to roll over and sit while all of Tiger Nation throws confetti around and chant "S-E-C" all day.
If Missouri is going to win, they just simply need to do what they know how to do. They are a better football team on paper, so they need not help the Lions by beating themselves.
That and if Dorial Green-Beckham just plays a fundamental game with his natural speed, it will be a show all its own.
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