Missouri Tigers Football: Will Tigers' Success Continue in SEC?

Austyn HumphreyCorrespondent IIISeptember 20, 2011

The Tigers aren't slackers. Just ask Bob Stoops and Landry Jones after top-ranked Oklahoma lost in Columbia.
The Tigers aren't slackers. Just ask Bob Stoops and Landry Jones after top-ranked Oklahoma lost in Columbia.Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

I love Missouri.

Tiger blood is powerful (ask Charlie Sheen). My dad was born in Kansas City—on the Show Me side. And y'all have got one heck of a run going with Gary Pinkel.

But Mizzou in the SEC—child, please!

Yes, it's actually going to happen. No, it's not official yet. The SEC (likely) wants to keep the plan a secret to prevent the sports traditionalists' and media from shutting down the deal. But it will be on Thursday, according to Yahoo! Sports writer Graham Watson. Tell this to all your non-football friends and come Thursday, you will become a prophet.

But maybe that foresight will come with some storm clouds of angst. One needs only to look at the facts for concern. While Rivals.com has currently ranked Missouri's 2012 recruiting class as 25th best in the nation, there is still some anxiety when it comes to the Tigers' depth.

ESPN and Rivals have both not considered Pinkel's commitments, which merit Mizzou as a national title contender. Just look at their evaluation of the caliber of players Columbia has gained since their run for it all in '07.

Missouri's Final Recruiting Ranks (2008-2012)
Year ESPN* Rivals*
2008 Not ranked 25th
2009 Not ranked 40th
2010 Not ranked 21st
2011 Not ranked 48th
2012 19th (so far) 25th (so far)


*Note: ESPN only ranked the Top 25 classes in recruiting for the 2008 recruiting class. Rivals ranks team recruiting from 1st to 50th.

By either method, the Tigers' gridiron men are not considered elite when it comes to the pigskin. Perhaps that is unfair, given the troupe's 42-15 overall record since the start of '07. In August, Bleacher Report's own Amy Daughters reported in "College Football's Top 50 Head Coaches" that Gary Pinkel was the 32nd best active coach. Maybe it's unfair to consider Missouri a "mediocre" program.

But then there is the football pinnacle conference, the SEC, and there are two fiercer Tigers in that West Division alone (the division that Missouri will presumably join). From 2008 to 2011, every SEC West team finished in the Top 50 nationally (only Mississippi State is below 50th right now for the 2012 class). In 2009, each of the six teams drew in Top 25 recruiting classes. Most importantly, SEC West teams have won three of the past four national title games. It won't be a cake walk.

Taking the average of Rivals recruiting rankings since 2008, the average SEC West team would rank 19th in recruiting. Over that same span of time, Mizzou fell at 32nd. That's splendid, but not enough to keep up the flagship years Columbia natives have grown accustom to seeing.

Overall, it's obvious that the SEC desires Missouri for access to the St. Louis and Kansas City television markets. But even with the approval of football's kings, Athletic Director Mike Alden needs to take a long look in the mirror before destroying the improvements recent football teams have made.

Should Missouri trust their gut reaction and bolt to the best conference in football? Or should the Athletic Department humbly acknowledge that Missouri is still in the growing pains of becoming a top-notch team and pull themselves out of the hysteria? Heck, it's not the end of the world if they say no.

After all, there's always the Big East.