Maybe Pat Dooley was trying to give Gary Pinkel a way to respond to the sentiment that appeared to be running wild in the main room as SEC Media Days, but he also ended up playing into the perception. The perception, namely, that the SEC sees itself as the ultimate in college football prowess, so good that other leagues can't help to compete.
"Do you think," Dooley began, according to the transcript, "that the Missouri family has a little bit of a chip on their shoulders because they've been told over and over that you've been playing JV football and now you're going to the big league?"
"I don't know how to interpret that question," Pinkel answered, and Twitter lit up with a sentiment that was much the same. Sure, the Big 12 might not have the week-after-week gauntlet that some teams face in the SEC, but Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and (most years) Texas aren't exactly slouches. Missouri didn't play Iowa State every week.
But the undercurrent of skepticism ran through many of the questions to Pinkel, even more so than in the earlier session with Kevin Sumlin. Among the questions:
You were mentioning about earning respect. Is there a fine line of telling your guys, let's go out and play, this is a tough league, don't be intimidated?
Do you look at the Georgia game, put any extra emphasis on it, as a chance to earn that respect. Do you think people undersell the Big 12?
What kind of an atmosphere should we be expecting in Columbia on September 8th against Georgia?
What were the assembled reporters wanting Gary Pinkel to say? "Well, really, we built a house of cards in the Big 12 because we got to play Kansas and Kansas State every year. We also have really lousy fans, so Georgia should expect a docile crowd when they come to Columbia." Otherwise, the questions just seem like trolling.
Maybe it's because Missouri is still viewed (fairly or not) as the most Big 12 of the two newcomers. The offense gets a lot more attention than the defense, in part because -- in all honesty -- the Missouri offense is a heck of a lot better than the Missouri defense. But by Thursday, even Nick Saban was taking up for Pinkel -- whom Saban recommended for the head coaching job when he was leaving Toledo.
Looking at his team at Missouri, he has a good team, and I think they'll compete extremely well in our league.
Missouri will have to earn their respect, but I've made it pretty clear that I think they will. Then maybe Pinkel can answer some more questions next year that treat Missouri like they belong here -- because they do.