Why Missouri Is Not Ready for SEC Football

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterSeptember 28, 2012

This is not the honeymoon that the Missouri football program expected in its first season since tying the knot with the SEC.

The Tigers came into the conference with a potent offense that was expected to put stress on SEC defenses and use the speed of SEC defenses against them.

Yeah, about that...

Head coach Gary Pinkel's offense has been limited to 626 total yards in its first two SEC games and looked completely out of sorts from the opening kickoff in last weekend's 31-10 loss to South Carolina.

That's not overly surprising considering Georgia and South Carolina have two of the best defenses in the country, but the speed of the front seven on both teams was something that clearly gave the Tigers some issues.

So what can Missouri do to get ready for SEC play?

It all starts up front, particularly along the offensive line.

The Tigers have allowed 24 tackles for loss this season—11th-most in the SEC—and have given up eight sacks. Missouri was hanging around with Georgia in its first-ever SEC game, but Bulldogs outside linebacker Jarvis Jones harassed quarterback James Franklin and essentially took the game over in the second half.

Negative plays aren't good, and considering Missouri ranks 13th in the SEC with only 47 plays of 10 or more yards, it needs all the help it can get from its offensive line.

Defensively, Missouri hasn't been bad.

Sure, it allowed South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw to complete 20 straight passes last weekend, and the Tigers can't let that happen on a consistent basis. But they rank sixth in the SEC in total defense, giving up an average of 317.5 yards per game.

Missouri has been overwhelmed by the team speed and depth that its first two opponents possessed. Granted, South Carolina and Georgia are both Top 10 teams, and that's nothing to be ashamed of, but it's going to take some time for Missouri to establish roots as an SEC team and attract those types of players to campus in order for the Tigers to compete on a weekly basis in the SEC.

Head coach Gary Pinkel knows this.

He told Mike Bianchi of 740 The Game in Orlando, Fla., that the difference between the Big 12 and the SEC is the week-in, week-out grind that you see in the SEC.

"It's like playing in the NFL," Pinkel said. "Every single week, you're going to play a very, very good football team."

Is Missouri capable of competing in the SEC East? Yes, at some point.

Traditional SEC fans may not agree after watching the Tigers in their first two games, but nobody expected the transition to be easy. The athletic department is already embarking on an ambitious campaign to upgrade its facilities and is altering its recruiting plan to focus on players and areas that are SEC strongholds.

After watching Missouri in its first two SEC games, though, it will take some time.