As Mizzou begins new era, expect less, dream more

July 17, 2012; Hoover, AL, USA; Missouri Tigers coach Gary Pinkel speaks during a press conference at the 2012 SEC media days event at the Wynfrey Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Kelly Lambert-US PRESSWIRE

As Mizzou enters their inaugural season in the SEC, the time to dream big is now.

This week marks the beginning of perhaps the most exciting transition in the history of Missouri athletics. There's plenty to be excited about, but you don't need me to tell you that.

With the Tigers set to begin play in the 2012 season this weekend vs. Southeastern Louisiana and in the Southeastern Conference in less than two weeks, it's important to temper expectations while dreaming of potential SEC glory...but that doesn't mean we can't stare into the big Missouri sky until UGA comes to town on September 8.

At first glance, it's pretty easy to see that Mizzou is undoubtedly going to be the new kid on the block. That's fair. The SEC is only the most exclusive fraternity in all of college athletics, with more national championships than any other conference. Mizzou has one national championship of any consequence. The 1954 baseball championship. Yeah, before it was even called the College World Series.

Mizzou could very well go out in week two against the Georgia Bulldogs and get whopped, 38-6. Mizzou will probably get stomped by 'Bama and embarrassed in The Swamp.

They might.

What Mizzou also might do is come out on September 8th and shock the entire United States below the Mason-Dixon Line and beat the top-10 Bulldogs, the might march into Gainesville and mop the floor with a Gator squad that's a farcry from the Tebow days.

The Crimson Tide could roll on into Columbia to face a 6-0 or 5-1 Missouri Tiger team on College Gameday in front of 73,000 True Sons at Faurot under the lights, putting the 2010 homecoming classic against OU to shame.

There are reasons why this is the most anticipated season in Missouri history (I can say that because I've been trying to get the taste of 2008 out of my mouth since).

The reasons for excitement are not only because of the seismic shift in conference prestige and national exposure. The reasons are because this is a very good football team that returns stars on both sides of the ball from an eight-win team.

The fruits of a conference shift have already begun to show. Head Men's Basketball Coach Frank Haith just signed a top-100 recruit, Wes Clark out of Michigan, the first three football games against SE Louisiana, Georgia and Arizona State are all kicking off during primetime and two of the three of them are on national television. I'm pretty sure Mizzou didn't play a game past 5pm when I was a freshman in 2005. These are all just the perks of being in a conference that has a vested interest in treating every team equally.

There's plenty of excitement to go around. This weekend is only just a taste of what's to come next weekend against the Georgia Bulldogs (Sorry I keep saying it so much. It's pretty surreal.) Columbia is sure to be rocking, Shiloh will be packed, the patio at Harpo's will be shoulder to shoulder as Mizzou begins its march towards earning respect in this country's elite football power conference.

For all we know, Mizzou could win five games this year and miss their first bowl game in nearly a decade or they could shock the world, go 9-3 and face off against Alabama in Atlanta for the SEC championship. The door has opened to brand-new opportunities for this team.

There's always room in the world for dreamers. Put aside the perpetual despair, Mizzou fans, at least for a while. This is going to be a season to remember, no matter what.

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