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Monday, September 25, 2017

‘SEC Nation’ offers Missouri fans a taste of national spotlight

The weekly SEC Network program’s visit built anticipation ahead of Missouri’s matchup against South Carolina.

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Diego Galicia/Photographer

Sept. 12, 2017

College football Saturdays are accentuated by their popular pregame shows. Just last week, ESPN’s “College Gameday,” which features high-profile analysts offering insight on the college football world, drew over two million American viewers.

Missouri hosted “Gameday” just once in the show’s existence, in 2010, showing just how special it is for the set to visit campus.

Missouri nonetheless got a taste of that experience when the school landed “SEC Nation,” a spin-off of “Gameday,” last Saturday.

Each week, SEC Nation selects the best game in the Southeastern Conference and travels to the host school of that game to film the show. On air, star analysts offer “Gameday”-style takes on SEC matchups.

The show’s cast includes SEC pundit Paul Finebaum, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow, former Dallas Cowboy defensive end Marcus Spears and up-and-coming show host Laura Rutledge.

The proverbial stars aligned perfectly for Missouri; the Tigers’ matchup against South Carolina was the only conference game on the schedule and many lauded it as an exciting nighttime matchup.

Fans and students lined up outside the set at Francis Quadrangle as early as 6 a.m. Saturday to get front-row access to the show.

“It made the gameday experience a lot better because everyone was excited before the game,” sophomore Jack Sarkas said. “Normally, I’m not pumped up until I walk into the stadium.”

Missouri students and fans alike completely surrounded the show’s set and formed a mass that stretched to the Columns from the set’s location on the northwest end of the quad.

Campus notables such as head football coach Barry Odom appeared on set, while freshmen basketball sensations Jontay and Michael Porter Jr. participated in an on-air game of cornhole.

At the end of the program, analysts offered their picks for the matchup. Tebow and Spears both selected South Carolina to win the game, while Finebaum emphatically picked Missouri by starting an “M-I-Z” chant in the crowd and banging on Marching Mizzou’s Big MO drum.

“SEC Nation” last came to Columbia in November 2015, ahead of Missouri’s matchup against Mississippi State. Saturday was the third time the show has visited since its inception.

Edited by Joe Noser | Jnoser@themaneater.com

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