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PIGSKIN Paradise
ANDY STAPLES
August 17, 2012
The two newest members of the nation's premier college football conference will love everything from the food to the fervor—except, perhaps, how hard it is to move the football
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August 17, 2012

Pigskin Paradise

The two newest members of the nation's premier college football conference will love everything from the food to the fervor—except, perhaps, how hard it is to move the football

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ATTENTION: MISSOURI TIGERS AND TEXAS A&M AGGIES RE: SEC ORIENTATION

WELCOME, MISSOURI AND TEXAS A&M, TO AMERICA'S PREMIER FOOTBALL CONFERENCE. You've joined a club that offers huge rewards (six straight national titles) and daunting challenges (you have to play the teams that won the past six national titles). In the Big 12 you traveled to big stadiums and faced future first-round draft picks. In the SEC you'll learn how 93,000 screaming LSU fans can induce claustrophobia in the open air and how genetic freaks seem even faster when they don Georgia's silver britches. You'll marvel at how a bucolic college town can be so serene on Friday morning, then morph into a cauldron of bloodlust by Saturday afternoon. Fear not. You'll love it.

THE BASICS

BEFORE BEGINNING SEC PLAY, KEEP THESE FACTS IN mind. Though you played in an excellent football conference before, you'll find things work differently in the SEC. In the Big 12, only Texas and Oklahoma tried to field top-level defenses on an annual basis. The other programs attempted to win by breaking the scoreboard. That rarely happens in the SEC. The best SEC programs have made defense their No. 1 priority. Last year the SEC produced four of the top five teams in the nation in total defense. LSU won its first 13 games in 2011 on the back of its defense—allowing just 11.3 points a game. Then LSU lost the BCS title game to conference compadre Alabama because the Crimson Tide had an equally good defense and (on that night) a much better offense.

Aggies, this message is even more important for you. You've entered the SEC's West Division, home of those nasty, offense-smothering LSU and Alabama teams. Your new coach, Kevin Sumlin, is a magician with a spread offense, but he'll need every trick to break through the walls erected in Baton Rouge and Tuscaloosa. Missouri, you've caught a bit of a break in the long term by landing in the SEC East, but don't expect to knife through opposing defenders the way you did in the Big 12. After all, you do have to play Alabama this season, and when you meet Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, you'll truly understand what you'll be up against year after year.

Yet fielding suffocating defenses has not kept SEC programs out of the end zone. Arkansas, for one, can fling the ball around as well as any of those elite Big 12 offenses. You folks in College Station know this after Razorbacks QB Tyler Wilson torched A&M for 510 passing yards last year. In the East the Tigers must keep Tennessee's Tyler Bray and Georgia's Aaron Murray from barraging them with touchdown passes.

SOME DOS AND DON'TS

DO: Let your freak flags fly. Aggies, fans of the other Big 12 teams branded you as the league's weirdos because of your in-game chants and traditions such as smooching your date after each touchdown. In the SEC you'll fit in perfectly (though you might get some funny looks for not having female cheerleaders). Your collie, Reveille, will party with beloved canines Bully (Mississippi State) and Uga (Georgia). Just keep Reveille away from Mike, LSU's massive feline mascot who lounges in a cage on the sideline at Tiger Stadium.

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