NASHVILLE — Saturday was Homecoming at Vanderbilt University, but the majority of the pregame crowd represented a different school.
Droves of Missouri fans made themselves at home on the Nashville campus and dominated Jess Neely Drive right outside Vanderbilt Stadium — this after a long night of loud "M-I-Z" chants on the famous Broadway strip.
"I'd say we've got about 8 to 10,000 fans here,” said Tigers fan Gregg Coffan. "And it's only a 40,000-seat stadium, so we're going to be pretty prominent."
Vanderbilt and Missouri have similar color schemes — the game was dubbed "Battle of the Black and Gold" — but an army of bright Tigers shirts stuck out amid the Commodores’ laissez faire tailgating atmosphere.
The toned-down pregame setting was rather disparate from the boisterous downtown scene Friday night, when Missourians hopped from Margaritaville to Rippy’s to Honky Tonk Central with live country music ringing in their ears.
"It was really interesting last night," Coffan said. "There were more Mizzou fans than anybody else. Everyplace you went into, it was just full of Mizzou fans with the colors on, (shouting) 'M-I-Z Z-O-U.'"
Maybe they could rename Nashville to "Columbia East" if it wasn’t already going through an official rebranding process.
"I never saw so many people in my life," Missouri fan Greg Cruce said. "One of the waitresses down there said, 'This is like Little Vegas. That's the new name.'"
Speaking of Vegas, at most casinos, the line for Saturday night’s game was even, meaning neither the Commodores nor the Tigers were favored to win. Such a tightly contested SEC football game would figure to include plenty of trash talk, but visitors spoke highly of their Tennessee hosts.
Coffan and Cruce visited the University of Tennessee in Knoxville last season for a Missouri victory and said the state has been nothing but friendly.
"I was really impressed with the hospitality," Cruce said. "We didn't hear one bad comment. It was so nice. I told one of the guys, 'It would be great if we could get all the Mizzou fans to be as hospitable as they were in Knoxville.' It was outstanding."
A nearby woman chimed in, "It's been the same way here."
But when it came time for a game prediction, the Missouri gentlemen abandoned all visions of friendliness.
"I'd say we win by at least 12," Cruce said. "It really depends on how much pressure they put on Franklin."
That would be Missouri quarterback James Franklin, not Vanderbilt’s head coach of the same name.
"We want to destroy the other Franklin," Cruce said.
Down the street, Missouri sophomores Greg Gannon and Jake Weisman clutched beverages as they made their way to one of the Tiger gatherings. They had arrived Saturday morning.
"The drive sucks," Weisman said. "But it's completely worth it. These guys do it a whole lot differently than we do."
The Ladue High graduates were excited to see what the game day atmosphere is like outside of Columbia.
"Nashville's a great city," Gannon said. "It's good to see what other SEC schools do for their tailgate and pregame traditions."
One of Tennessee's largest cities, Nashville is one of the more exciting frontiers in Missouri's new conference. The bars, food and music make for one of the southeast’s most popular tourist attractions.
"When we got into the SEC, this was a whole new opportunity to go to different venues," Coffan said. "And the venues are more interesting than the college towns in the Big 12."
New town or not, the area around the stadium might as well have been an extension of Missouri's Memorial Stadium.
"There's a ton of Mizzou fans," Gannon said.