COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Gary Pinkel had just returned from a skiing trip when he walked into his University of Washington office and heard the phone ring.
Nick Saban was on the other end, asking whether his old college teammate would be interested in succeeding him as head coach at Toledo. The Huskies' offensive coordinator of seven years, Pinkel said yes.
"He said, 'I'll have nothing to do with you getting it, but I can get you an interview, if you're interested,'" Pinkel recalled. "For me, that's how it started."
Toledo hired the coach in 1991 after Saban left to become the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns. Pinkel went on to win the most games in school history, a 73-37-3 record over 10 years.
Now in his 13th year at Missouri, Pinkel will face the Rockets for the first time Saturday. He insists he won't get sentimental.
"I'm always rooting for Toledo," he said. "I'm always rooting for Washington - obviously except if we play them."
After not playing any team from the Southeastern Conference in their 93-year history, the Rockets (0-1) will face their second SEC opponent in as many weeks to start the season. The team only gained 205 yards, including 50 on the ground, and 12 first downs in a 24-6 loss last week at Florida. Toledo averaged 445.2 yards per game in 2012.
"It can speed up when you get some first downs," coach Matt Campbell said about his offense. "I think from our standpoint, that's who we are. We're not changing because we're playing Florida or Missouri or anybody else."
Missouri (1-0) had little trouble advancing the ball against Murray State, gaining 694 yards in a 58-14. Not having to face an SEC opponent in the second week, as the team did a year ago with Georgia, "helps us ease into the season a little more," cornerback E.J. Gaines said.
That doesn't mean they should let their guard down, though, against a team that last season finished 9-4 in the Mid-American Conference.
"As everybody knows, anyone can lose a football game," quarterback James Franklin said.
Here are five things to know about the first-ever meeting between the two schools:
SLOW STARTS: Both teams struggled in the first quarter last week, as Toledo only gained 19 yards on 10 plays and Missouri trailed Murray State 14-13 after the opening 15 minutes. Campbell said the Rockets would try to push the pace early to establish a rhythm for their offense. Missouri will look to do the same thing, so whoever feels comfortable more quickly will have an advantage.
TOLEDO'S YOUTH: On the Rockets' defensive two-deep depth chart, 14 of 22 players are either freshmen or sophomores. Only four are seniors. Campbell said he saw many of his players mature and become more physical during the game against Florida. With the "greatest growth in any football program" occurring from week one to week two, he's hopeful the traveling experience to Florida will translate into a closer game against Missouri.
DUAL THREATS: Missouri's Franklin and Toledo's Terrance Owens can run the ball on any down. Franklin rushed 217 times for 981 yards in 2011 before missing parts of last season to injury while Owens ran 101 times for 395 yards in 2012. Neither may run quite as much this year, though, as coaches have stressed to Franklin to avoid unnecessary contact while Owens has returning 1,498-yard rusher David Fluellen at his side.
MISSOURI TAILBACKS: Henry Josey is listed as the starter but expect backups Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy to see significant playing time. All three are around 5-foot-10, 190-pounds, relying on speed and misdirection to fool defenses - and occasionally their own offensive line, according to guard Max Copeland. The backs rotate in every few plays and allow the offense to stay up-tempo while also taking some strain off of Franklin. Missouri rushed for 358 yards in the opener.
UPSET POTENTIAL: Toledo has won 26 games in the last three years, beating Purdue and finishing within seven points of Arizona, Ohio State and Syracuse. Pinkel has won nine of 11 games - including the last eight consecutive - against teams from the Mid-American Conference since joining the Tigers in 2001. Missouri must take advantage of the Rockets' inexperience if it wants to put the game out of reach.