Missouri is leaving the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference, and nobody really can blame the Tigers. The Big 12 is a monument to dysfunction. It’s a pirate ship. You jump off when you get a chance.
I think Missouri will come to regret leaving. The rivalry with Kansas (the Jayhawks are saying their Border War competitions are over) and the conference basketball tournament in Kansas City. Those are things Mizzou never will replicate in the SEC.
But the most common charged leveled at Missouri, that the Tigers will be non-competitive in the SEC? I don’t know if that’s true. In fact, I’d say 2012 is a pretty good time for Missouri to become the second Columbia and the third set of Tigers in the SEC.
Missouri will be placed in the SEC East, and in case no one has noticed, the SEC East isn’t what it used to be. Florida is down. Tennessee is downer. Georgia is treading water. South Carolina won the division last year for the first time ever. Kentucky and Vanderbilt never have won the East and never will.
Missouri 2012, with an experienced quarterback in James Franklin, can compete with that crew. I’m not saying Mizzou will win the East, but Missouri won’t be run over. It’s not like Mizzou joined the SEC West, where the defending national champion will be finish fourth this season and where three top-10 teams reside.
I expect Florida eventually will rebuild and become the Swamp Monsters of previous years. I think Georgia will get better, whether Mark Richt ever gets off his proverbial hot seat or not. Tennessee, I don’t know. I’m skeptical. South Carolina, who knows? That’s a tougher landscape than Missouri faced in the Big 12 North, but not nearly as tough as Mizzou faced in a 10-team Big 12.
Gary Pinkel is a quality football coach. He will have his teams competitive in the SEC. Again, I’m not sure Missouri is going to be much better than an annual threat for the Music City Bowl. If Mizzou didn’t like its bowl assignment after the 2007 season, when Kansas got the Orange Bowl and Mizzou settled for the Cotton, wait ’til the Tigers get on a Nashville/Birmingham treadmill for bowl trips every year.
But it’s not like Missouri has been vacationing at the Fiesta Bowl every New Year’s.
Here are Mizzou’s bowl trips the last 27 years: Holiday (’97 season), Insight (’98), Independence (’03), Independence (’05), Sun (’06), Cotton (’07), Alamo (’08), Texas (’09) and Insight (’10). The moral is clear. The Tigers are not risking a bunch of football tradition with this move.
The biggest football concern for Mizzou is Texas recruiting ties. Pinkel has done a nice job with some Texas recruiting. Will that continue, with just one game every other guaranteed in Texas? The Tigers likely will be paired as cross-division rivals with Texas A&M, but in the current Big 12, Mizzou is guaranteed two Texas games per year.
But competitively? Missouri football won’t fall much.