If Missouri was in the SEC this season, the general consensus is that they would have an even worse record than they do right now. Diving into a mock SEC schedule, it looks like the general consensus could be wrong.
Much has been said about Missouri's possible (and likely) move to the SEC. A lot of people think it is a good move for the school's football prestige and their ability to earn more money while others think the school doesn't fit culturally in the SEC and would find it much tougher to be competitive in football.
Doubters of Missouri's chances of competing in the SEC seem to be ignoring the fact that the Big 12 has been as competitive as the SEC this year, if not more so. Five straight BCS National champions have come from the SEC, but as a whole, the Big 12 and SEC have been fairly even in competitiveness and depth over those five years.
With the impending move to the SEC, I thought it would be interesting to see how this year's Missouri team would be faring in their new conference this year. I'll be adding the Tigers to the SEC East, which has been speculated because of the conference's desire to keep Auburn and Alabama in the same division.
Let's make a fair conference schedule for the Tigers (through five conference games) to see how they would measure up this season.
at South Carolina - L
A conference opener against the Gamecocks would be a tough one to predict. South Carolina has had a pretty easy schedule thus far, with their only true tough games coming between the hedges against Georgia (win) and at home against Auburn (loss). Even though the Tigers are 4-4, I don't see South Carolina as too much better than Mizzou right now, evidenced by a couple close wins against Mississippi State and Tennessee. While this game would be closer than many would imagine, I still think the Gamecocks come out on top at home against Missouri.
vs. Vanderbilt - W
Vanderbilt's offense just isn't very good and the stout run defense of Missouri would be able to slow down the only dangerous part (rushing attack) of the Commodore team. Playing this game at home would be a positive for the Tigers and at this point, they are just a better team and a better program than Vanderbilt. Compare this to a game against Iowa State and you see a pretty easy win for the Tigers.
vs. Florida - W
Missouri gets lucky here with another down year out of the Florida Gators. Yes, their defense is good and yes all of their losses have come to ranked teams, but the same can be said about Missouri. The offense of the Gators is questionable at best this year and another home game for Missouri means another win against a middle of the road SEC team.
at Arkansas - L
This is the SEC matchup a lot of Missouri fans should be getting excited for. The Arkansas-Missouri rivalry has always seemed like a good idea, but it just has never been materialized. The vitriol will be there in basketball with former Missouri coach Mike Anderson now the head man at Arkansas, but the hate will have to be manufactured a little bit in football. Missouri would be 4-2 at this point and the Razorbacks would probably be 5-1 (only loss to Alabama), so it would probably be a top 25 matchup.
Arkansas is a very talented team and this would be another competitive game, but I think they just have too much talent for Missouri to handle. Junior quarterback Tyler Wilson is having a very productive season and combined with the dual-threat rushing attack of Ronnie Wingo and Dennis Johnson, this would be one tough offense to stop. I see the Razorbacks winning a 38-31 type game.
at Texas A&M - W
This game was actually played already in the Big 12 last weekend and the Tigers came out on top in College Station. With an impressive win to move Missouri's record to 5-3, I think it isn't outlandish to say that the Tigers would be likely be in or on the cusp of the top 25 - kind of like Auburn (6-3) is now.
Yet to play vs. Georgia, at Kentucky, at Tennessee, vs. Mississippi State
The big difference between playing in the Big 12 and playing in the SEC right now is depth. The Big 12 is looking at 8-9 teams becoming bowl eligible this season while the SEC will probably get 8 (with two more teams in the conference).
There is a clear cream of the crop of the SEC right now - Alabama, LSU, South Carolina, Georgia and Arkansas - but Missouri would probably only have to play 3 of those teams in the 2011 season. The Tigers three losses in the conference came to teams who were undefeated at the time (Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma) and they still had Texas A&M, Texas and Baylor left on the schedule after those losses.
By breaking down the schedules game-by-game, it's clear that the Big 12 and SEC are similar in competitiveness and that Missouri might actually have a better record if they were in the SEC this year, going against what most people believe about both conferences.