COLUMBIA - The excitement in the air was palpable as Tiger fans gathered Monday at Buffalo Wild Wings to hear MU football coach Gary Pinkel give his first Tiger Talk of the season.
The weekly radio show gives listeners, as well as those at the restaurant, a chance to quiz Missouri players and coaches on a variety of topics.
For longtime fans who have seen MU through its highs and lows, the team's preseason Associated Press ranking of No. 6 has created a tremendous buzz.
"We're really savoring the time now," said Greg Maloney, an MU fan for more than 40 years.
"I'd say I'm cautiously optimistic. There's always this little thing in the back of my mind that says something bad will happen, but it's not just the rankings; we actually have a good team. I think there's a real good shot that we'll be playing in Kansas City in the Big 12 Championship."
Host Mike Kelly stated that it was the largest crowd he had seen at a season-opening Tiger Talk.
"On a Monday night, you normally have no problem getting a table, but this easily doubles or quadruples the usual crowd," said Christina Linnenbringer, marketing manager for Buffalo Wild Wings.
Pinkel fielded questions from fans and emphasized that despite all the attention, the players remain united and driven.
"If you rank in the top 15 in the nation, you're going to draw attention," Pinkel said. "Players in 2001 and 2002 were envious of the success that schools like Oklahoma State and Kansas State or any program that has success were getting, and I've used a quote from Pat Riley's book that those that win reap the benefits of winners."
Much of the fans' attention was focused on Saturday's season opener in St. Louis against border rival Illinois, which is currently ranked No. 20 by the AP. With the game sold out, Pinkel emphasized the need for fans to show their support and wear the same color in an effort to "paint the stadium gold."