Georgia heading to Missouri on a 'business trip'

Associated Press  |  Last updated September 04, 2012
Tavarres King will be snapping a few pictures when he trots onto Faurot Field. He always does before he plays in a stadium for the first time. ''I love going to new places,'' the Georgia receiver said Tuesday. ''I love looking at new things.'' This is certainly new. The seventh-ranked Bulldogs (1-0) are the opponent for Missouri's first Southeastern Conference game, a difficult task given the significance of Saturday night's contest in the Show Me State. There will be a raucous, sellout crowd cheering on the Tigers (0-1), hoping they prove themselves a worthy addition to the country's best football league. Georgia can appreciate what this means to the other team but couldn't care less. The Bulldogs won the SEC East a year ago despite an 0-2 start, and they certainly have the talent to get into the national championship mix this season. Let Missouri win its first SEC game another time. Georgia is focused on its own lofty goals. ''It's a business trip for us,'' King said. Even though these teams have only played once - way back in the 1960 Orange Bowl - there's already a bit of bad blood. Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said he tried watching Georgia's season-opening win over Buffalo but turned off the television because it resembled ''old man football,'' apparently meaning old-fashioned. Rest assured, that is now bulletin-board material in Athens, though Georgia's Mark Richt tried to make light of the comment. ''I've been getting AARP stuff in the mail,'' the 52-year-old coach quipped. ''I thought it was a compliment, really. I was like, `Yeah, he's got a lot of respect for us.' I've never heard it put that way before.'' Georgia's players had clearly been told not to respond in kind to Richardson when they went before the media. ''We're just staying focused on the game plan,'' receiver Michael Bennett said, breaking into a telling smile. Asked if that was what he was instructed to say, Bennett replied, ''Something like that, yeah.'' He jokingly added, ''I've got a few more in my pocket if you need them. `Focus on the game' and `They're a great team.''' All kidding aside, Georgia knows how much this game means to Missouri - and how much it means to the Bulldogs' own hopes for a big season. ''We're going into a hostile environment and playing a big team that's new to our conference,'' cornerback Damian Swann said. ''They want to make a name for themselves. They want to show everybody they belong.'' The excitement is certainly building in Missouri, where coach Gary Pinkel hopes this is the start of a long, successful tenure in the SEC. ''It's the first SEC game, the first SEC home game, so it is going to go down in history,'' he said. ''They are always going to point at it and talk about it, look at it and how it came out.'' The novelty factor is also high for this game. Georgia, like most SEC schools, is dominated by its football program. Missouri has had plenty of success under Pinkel but it still more known for its men's basketball team. The Bulldogs have no one on their roster from Missouri. The Tigers have just one player from Georgia. The last time these teams played Dwight Eisenhower was the president - and Richt wasn't even born - when the Bulldogs beat the Tigers 14-0 in that Orange Bowl. But there is one interesting link. Richt actually interviewed with Missouri shortly before he took the Georgia job in 2001. The Tigers wound up hiring Pinkel the same year. ''A lot of other things just seemed to be simmering at that time in my life as far as job opportunities,'' Richt recalled. ''But Missouri was one we thought might be a special place to be.'' While most Georgia players acknowledged knowing little about Missouri's program, linebacker Christian Robinson said he at least knows where the Bulldogs will be playing this weekend. ''My dad was a geography teacher, so I'm good with that,'' Robinson said. ''And I knew what their mascot was.'' Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray has studied up on the Tigers, as well. For instance, he wasn't far off the mark when he said Faurot Field holds about 75,000 (officially, the capacity is 71,004). ''And doesn't it have a little grass area where you can sit? A hill or something?'' Murray asked. Indeed, it does. ''It's really going to be loud,'' Murray said. ''The fans are going to be ready to go. Plus, it's a night game, so they'll have all day to get ready for the game and really get loud. We've got to make sure we're ready to go when it comes to communication and cadences.'' Since the last SEC expansion in 1992, Georgia had played South Carolina in its first conference game. Now, there's a new tradition, another sign of the ever-changing times in college football. Instead of going to Columbia, S.C..., about a two-hour drive away, they will be flying to Columbia, Mo. It doesn't really matter to the Bulldogs. ''Taking a road trip to a new place is always something I look forward to,'' Richt said. ''In life, change is good sometimes. If you're doing the same thing over and over again, it can be tiresome. Starting out with a new opponent, our new Eastern Division foe, is a good thing.'' --- Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
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