What can Gary Pinkel and Missouri fans look forward to this year?
A final thought on each team before the 2012 season begins. Inspired by Off Tackle Empire
There's one thing that everyone responsible for conventional wisdom seems to be able to agree on about Missouri and Texas A&M's move to the SEC this year: Texas A&M might do better over the long run, but Missouri will have a better season this year. It's an idea this site has promoted, but it's almost reached the point of cliche.
But what does that mean, really? How well have teams done when switching leagues in recent years, particularly when jumping from one AQ league to another, or moved up from the ranks of the midmajors to a league with an annual, engraved invitation to the big-money games?
So far, the results have been mixed. The highest-profile example of an upside, perhaps, was Virginia Tech winning the ACC in 2004, the Hokies' inaugural season in that conference. And ever since joining, Virginia Tech has essentially become the dominant team in the ACC, playing in all but two of the ACC Championship Games. (There was not a championship game in 2004, because Boston College had not yet joined to make the ACC a 12-team league.)
But while Virginia Tech appears to be the only example of that kind of success in an AQ conference, it's not the only team to win during its first year in a new league. In 2005, Tulsa won the Conference USA Championship Game against UCF, when both were new to the conference. Marshall rejoined the MAC in 1997 and won it. TCU won the Mountain West Conference during its first season there, in 2005. And Fresno State tied with BYU and Hawai'i for the WAC title in 1992.
And it's not like some of the other teams that joined have been complete flops. Boise would have won the Mountain West last year were it not for an errant field goal. The Broncos also placed second in their first year in the WAC before becoming the conference powerhouse.
None of the teams that joined the Big East in 2005 won the conference -- West Virginia did -- but Louisville came in second and South Florida placed third. Then again, Cincinnati ended up in sixth place, so there are some risks to the downside.
Last year also featured Nebraska joining the B1G -- the Huskers came in third in the Legends Division (the one with Michigan in it). Less successful were Utah and Colorado, neither of which could win an absolutely dreadful Pac-12 South with Southern Cal on probation. Aside from the Trojans, though, Utah was the only team in the division to finish the year with a winning record.
That is not a comprehensive list, but it gives a pretty broad range of choices. And it's not exactly easy to translate those results to Missouri's efforts to jump from the Big 12 to the SEC. One could point out, to counter the Virginia Tech example, that the ACC ain't exactly the SEC. But that person would also have to acknowledge that the Big East wasn't exactly the Big 12, even before the Hokies left.
There's also a problem with comparing Missouri to the Gamecocks, and not just because South Carolina was 3-6-2 the season before making the jump to the SEC. The Gamecocks were independent when they were invited to the SEC, so ti's not quite the same as moving from one conference to another.
The closest thing to that in the history of the SEC was Arkansas' move from the SWC in 1992. And while Arkansas did not come in and have instant success -- not counting forfeits, it didn't have a winning conference record in its first three seasons as an SEC team -- it didn't take too long. The Hogs went 6-2 in the league in 1995 and won the West before getting clobbered by Florida in the Georgia Dome.
So what will Missouri have accomplished in the time frame where it will have more success if the conventional wisdom is to be believed? Well, part of that might count on just how quickly Texas A&M catches up.