Mizzou and the Southeastern Conference
Just under a year ago, I started to hear what seemed at the time to be credible rumblings about the University of Missouri leaving the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference. During a mid August trip down to Columbia to take in a preseason scrimmage, I happened to hear commentary on a certain national sports network claiming that Mizzou would be in over their heads in football if they went to the SEC. What the man said was accurate--through the last couple decades of the 20th Century.
Since the '07 season, the MU football program compares favorably with the upper half of the SEC. I base that on a check of the Sagarin Ratings that USA Today publishes. These are mathmatically based ratings that remove emotion, media bias, etc. from the question of who is better than whom. I use the 2007 season as a point of reference because it took Coach Gary Pinkel quite a while to get the Tiger football program up to speed after 30 years or so of misadventures. From 07 on, the Tigers have been in the top 20 of those Sagarin Ratings four times including a #6 ranking in '06.
Instead of chasing Texas and Oklahoma, the lead dogs are now LSU and Alabama. Mizzou should be in the pack of solid teams nipping at their heels.
The biggest difference between the Big 12 and the SEC appears to be with the bottom half. Everyone in the SEC looks to be pretty decent. A bad day by a top level team against someone in the bottom quarter of the Big 12 meant a win if you got your act together by the fourth quarter. A bad day against the bottom of the SEC for anyone--Alabama and LSU included means a loss.
Coach Pinkel's teams seem to do pretty well when the margin for error is small. I see where the preseason media poll picks MU fourth in the SEC East. Can't disagree with that one bit.