KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 26: Head coach Gary Pinkel of the Missouri Tigers pats the helmet of quarterback James Franklin #1 during pre-game warm-ups prior to the game against the Kansas Jayhawks November 26, 2011 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Missouri comes into the SEC with the lower profile of the two new schools. Texas A&M is a bit more well known around these parts thanks to some shared history with member schools like the coaching connections with Alabama and the team having played LSU quite a few times. Plus A&M was briefly connected to the SEC in the crazy realignment summer of 2010, so the idea of TAMU joining the conference was less foreign last summer when the Aggies finally joined up.
But Missouri? There's just not a lot to go on. The existing SEC school that the Tigers have played the most is Ole Miss at six times, and they've even only played A&M a dozen times. The most recent intrigue with the SEC the school has had was 2007 when it played Ole Miss, Chase Daniel was a Heisman finalist along with Tim Tebow and Darren McFadden, and the school capped off the Houston Nutt era at Arkansas by delivering a 38-7 beatdown in the Cotton Bowl.
The general idea that I think most SEC fans have of Missouri is that of a generic all-offense, no-defense Big 12 team. It's true that the offense has been quite good under Gary Pinkel, and it should still be good even in the new league. James Franklin is a capable dual-threat quarterback, and he'll likely end up judged as one of the league's best by the end of the season. The running game could by dynamite if Henry Josey is able to recover from his plague of knee injuries. The receiving corps will be great with leading pass catcher TJ Moe and two others of the top five in receiving back, and they add the nation's top recruit in Dorial Green-Beckham.
What you may not realize, however, is that Missouri has been prepping for this SEC move for a while. The team's total rushing yards have increased every year since 2009, and the defense has gotten better as well. Mizzou actually held conference foes to 15.8 points per game in 2010, a real feat in the Big 12. The D took a few steps back last year as offense overall in the league perked up a bit, but the unit finished no worse than fourth in points per game allowed, yards per rush allowed, passing efficiency defense, and yards per play allowed.
Missouri has been hanging around in the top half of the Big 12 for a while now. The team has won 10 or more games in three of the past five seasons, which is more than Florida has and is tied with Georgia for the most among current SEC East teams in the same span. Yes, Missouri was in a different conference, but the point is that the team has been consistently good for half a decade now. Plus, "hanging around in the top half of the conference" is good enough to go to Atlanta out of the SEC East these days.
The Tigers may be the lesser known of the conference's newcomers, but they have the better chance of making some noise right away.