September 11, 2015

Gary Pinkel has seen some of the most hostile environments in college football in the Big 12 and Southeastern conferences.

The Missouri coach expects much the same on Saturday, even though the No. 21 Tigers (1-0) are making a somewhat unexpected trip to Sun Belt Conference power Arkansas State.

The Red Wolves (0-1), who have been to four straight bowl games and seen some of the top coaches in the country cycle through in recent years, played in Columbia in 2013 as part of a two-game series.

Missouri had hoped to move the return game to a neutral site such at St. Louis' Busch Stadium, but Arkansas State declined that option last year - preferring to use this weekend as a showcase for the recently renovated Centennial Bank Stadium.

Pinkel is focused on seeing improvement from the Tigers following their season-opening win over Southeast Missouri State, not any potential challenges of traveling to a non-power conference team eager to prove it belongs on a bigger stage.

''No, there shouldn't be (challenges), and if it is then we're not doing the right things with our players, or our players don't get it, one of the two,'' Pinkel said. ''Every environment is going to be difficult, but we don't get caught up in that.''

While two-time defending SEC East champion Missouri opened its season with a comfortable 34-3 win, one in which senior linebacker Kentrell Brothers had a career-high 16 tackles, the Red Wolves committed four turnovers and were humbled in a 55-6 defeat at No. 8 USC.

Arkansas State won at least a share of the Sun Belt in three straight seasons from 2011-13, doing so under three coaches - Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn and Bryan Harsin.

Current Red Wolves coach Blake Anderson is in his second year after finishing 7-6 last season, and he's eager to put last week's disappointing opener behind him.

''With all that we've got going on, the renovations and just the way the brand is growing, to have this game open up our home season ... is big for Arkansas State,'' Anderson said. ''Hopefully we'll take advantage of it and packed the house and play a good game.''

Some things to watch as Missouri looks to overcome a hostile Sun Belt environment:

HANSBROUGH'S HEALTH: Missouri running back Russell Hansbrough sprained his right ankle in the first quarter of last week's win, leaving after just two carries for 23 yards. The senior, who rushed for 1,084 yards last season, is expected to play on Saturday despite being listed as questionable by the Tigers.

RUNNING WOES: Without Hansbrough for much of last week, Missouri struggled mightily to establish its running game - finishing with only 88 yards on the ground on 33 carries, a 2.7-per carry average. ''I think everybody's got to do a little bit better, and that's what we're going to work hard to do,'' Pinkel said.

TURNOVER BUG: Of Arkansas State's four turnovers last week against the Trojans, two were interceptions thrown by starting quarterback Fredi Knighten. The dual-threat senior, who threw for 24 touchdowns and ran for 11 more last season, only had seven interceptions all of last season.

ROAD WARRIORS: Missouri hasn't lost a true road game since losing at Texas A&M on Nov. 24, 2012, a stretch of 10 straight games. The Tigers have lost the last two SEC championship games at the neutral site of the Georgia Dome.

BROTHERS' DOMINANCE: Brothers finished fifth in the SEC with an average of 8.6 tackles per game last year. However, nothing about last season was quite as dominating as his first game this year - when he had 10 tackles of the first 26 plays by Southeast Missouri State and added a blocked punt for good measure.

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