Missouri tackles its first SEC schedule in 2012:
Nonconference opponents (with 2011 records)
Sept. 1: Southeastern Louisiana (3-8)
Sept. 15: Arizona State (6-7)
Sept. 29: at UCF (5-7)
Nov. 17: Syracuse (5-7)
SEC home games
Sept. 8: Georgia
Oct. 6: Vanderbilt
Oct. 13: Alabama
Oct. 27: Kentucky
SEC road games
Sept. 22: at South Carolina
Nov. 3: at Florida
Nov. 10: at Tennessee
Nov. 24: at Texas A&M
Gut-check time: Missouri gets two of the heavyweights at home in its first season in the SEC. Alabama comes to town on Oct. 13, but it's Georgia's visit the second week of the season that could really set the tone for the Tigers. A win announces to the entire league that Missouri means business. A loss could be difficult to overcome, especially when you look at what the Tigers face during the second half of the season. Georgia will have some key players missing on defense early in the season. The atmosphere at Faurot Field should also be electric with it being Missouri's first-ever SEC game. In short, it's a chance for the Tigers to really kick it off in grand style and make an immediate impression on the rest of the SEC.
Trap game: Sandwiched between trips to Tennessee and Texas A&M at the end of the season is a home date with Syracuse on Nov. 17. Doug Marrone has done a great job in getting the Orange back to respectability, and you wonder where Missouri's focus will be that deep in the grind of the SEC schedule.
Snoozer: The Tigers should be able to put it on cruise control and still win comfortably in the Sept. 1 opener against Southeastern Louisiana.
Telltale stretch: Missouri ends the season by playing its last three SEC games on the road. The only thing that breaks up that stretch is a home game against Syracuse on Nov. 17. Otherwise, the Tigers will spend all of November on the road -- at Florida on Nov. 3, at Tennessee on Nov. 10 and at Texas A&M on Nov. 24. Missouri is the only school in the league in 2012 that plays its final three SEC games on the road.
Final analysis: It will be imperative that Missouri capitalizes on the September and October portion of its schedule. The Tigers will head into November having played away from home only twice, and one of those games is a Sept. 29 nonconference date at UCF. There aren't any powerhouses awaiting among the Tigers' four nonconference opponents. That said, Missouri is one of only two SEC teams in 2012 that will play two nonconference games against teams from BCS conferences -- Arizona State at home on Sept. 15 and Syracuse at home on Nov. 17. The only other SEC school playing two nonconference games against teams from BCS conferences is Vanderbilt. The Tigers get a bye prior to their final five games, which should help them recharge. The magic number in September and October, which includes six home games, will be at least five wins. Anything less will make it difficult for the Tigers to produce a winning season in their first tour through the SEC.