After a successful first weekend of the Tiger Shirt Tour, in which Hunter Schoen and I journeyed nearly 1,900 miles to Knoxville, Tennessee and Lexington, Kentucky , I’m undertaking my first solo expedition of the TST.
The next stop on the Tiger Shirt Tour is the University of Missouri aka the red-headed stepchild of the Southeastern Conference. After a 26-11 lost at the hands of West Virginia last week, the SEC East Tigers face the Eastern Michigan Eagles of the Mid-American Conference in their home opener at Faurot Field.
So far chaos has reigned supreme on the field during the Tiger Shirt Tour. Through two games, I’ve witnessed Appalachian State (a Sun Belt team) nearly upset the (then-ranked) No. 9 Tennessee Volunteers in overtime and the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles scored 27 unanswered second half points to topple the Kentucky Wildcats. I’m not calling a #MACtion upset, but let’s just say I think this game will be more interesting than Mizzou fans believe.
Entering its fifth football season as a member of the Southeastern Conference, Mizzou has made its presence felt on the gridiron. Under now-retired coach Gary Pinkel, the Tigers emerged victorious in the SEC East in 2013 and 2014, amassing a 14-2 conference record over those two seasons.
But 2015 was a different story. Amid controversy on and off the field, the Tigers finished 5-7 (1-7 in SEC play). Gary Pinkel retired and the Barry Odom era has begun in Columbia.
On the third stop of the Tiger Shirt Tour, I’ll see how the western Columbia has acclimated to being a full-fledged SEC college town at the half decade mark. It’s one thing to produce on the field, and the Tigers have shown they are more than capable of hanging with the traditional powers of the SEC, but how do the Mizzou faithful stack up to their counterparts in Baton Rouge, Athens, Tuscaloosa and beyond? Do the Tiger fans ooze with SEC pride?
Off the field, what lingering effects will last year’s student protests, hunger strike and football team boycott have on the Mizzou game day experience? Will I encounter the infamous poop swastika?
I’m looking forward to my first trip to Columbia, watching the Tigers play, meeting the Mizzou faithful and checking out the six large columns on campus.