Starting tomorrow, the Internet will be bursting at the seams with coverage from the Southeastern Conference football media days in Hoover, Ala. Those craving college football will eat it all up, like a fresh order of Zaxby’s chicken.
But before we bow down to Nick Saban, let’s take a minute and remember Mizzou will play four non-SEC games this season, contests that will be crucial to the overall success of this team.
Another 5-7 record (or worse) could cause the toppling of the Gary Pinkel era that has reigned in Columbia, Mo., since 2001. To reinforce his regime, Pinkel will likely have to provide what most Mizzou fans really care about: a winning record and a not-entirely random bowl game.
The first step toward that goal is going undefeated in non-conference games. Teams with bowl dreams have a hard time hitting .500 or better when they take a blemished non-con schedule into the dog-eat-dog SEC.
Last year, one of Missouri’s losses came via Syracuse in the second-to-last game of the season. In 2013, the Tigers knock every non-conference game out of the way early, four in a row. Win them all and the Tigers will need only three SEC wins to finish the year a respectable 7-5.
Let’s look at how Mizzou stacks up against its non-conference opponents. Hurry, before the SEC steals the show.
Murray State (home) — Aug. 31
LINDY’S RANKING: N/A
2012 RECORD: 5-6, 4-4 Ohio Valley Conference
BIGGEST THREAT: Not to beat up on the Murray State Racers, but if this middle-of-the-pack FCS team poses any kind of a legitimate threat to the Tigers, Mizzou fans are in for a long, long season.
STRESS LEVEL: None
Toledo (home) — Sept. 7
LINDY’S RANKING: No. 80
2012 RECORD: 9-4, 6-2 Mid-American Conference
BIGGEST THREAT: Matt Campbell. At 32, the Rockets’ head coach was the youngest in Division I football last season. He’s an up-and-comer whose team knocked off Cincinnati (10-3) last season and then beat Duke in the Belk Bowl. A win at Mizzou would look great on his resume, especially against Pinkel, who previously coached at Toledo. He’ll bring in a high-scoring offense led by dual threat quarterback Terrance Owens.
STRESS LEVEL: Moderate
Indiana (away) — Sept. 21
LINDY’S RANKING: No. 63
2012 RECORD: 4-8, 2-6 Big Ten
BIGGEST THREAT: Cameron Coffman. The Hoosiers averaged 30.8 points per game last season, accumulating an average of 311.2 passing yards every weekend. Coffman — the younger brother of former Mizzou tight end Chase Coffman — totaled 2,734 yards and 15 touchdowns through the air after stepping in for an injured teammate. If the Tigers’ defense can’t stop him, the offense will be asked to score a lot in a night game on the road.
STRESS LEVEL: High
Arkansas State (home) — Sept. 28
LINDY’S RANKING: No. 74
2012 RECORD: 10-3, 7-1 Sun Belt
BIGGEST THREAT: David Oku. The former Tennessee running back has flourished with the Red Wolves. He was a first-team all-conference running back as a junior, rushing 1,061 yards for a team that finished the season on an eight-game winning streak, including a win against Kent State in the Go.Daddy.com Bowl. Star quarterback Ryan Aplin graduated, so Oku could be even more of a factor in the offense in 2013.
STRESS LEVEL: Moderate
PINKEL (SEEMINGLY) PICKS FRANKLIN
Don’t overlook the presence of Mizzou quarterback James Franklin at the SEC spectacle in Alabama.
Fans have been led to believe Franklin is fighting for his starting job as he enters his senior season, that Maty Mauk and Corbin Berkstresser are truly in the running.
I’m not buying it, and this move shows why. The idea of a quarterback competition is fine. It keeps kids on their toes. But ask yourself: If you were a coach, would you bring a non-starting quarterback to a media day? I wouldn’t want a kid who has a good chance at losing his gig to be the face of my program.
I don’t think this staff believes Franklin has to be the starter. But I don’t think any other quarterback has done enough to show he’s capable of taking his place.
ENGLISH ON THE PROWL
Still no word on where former Mizzou guard Kim English will land after being waived by the Pistons. Detroit cut ties with the 2012 second-round draft pick after landing veteran free agent Chauncey Billups.
An NBA scout told FOXSportsMidwest.com that English should get an invite to a team’s training camp. He’ll need to shore up his shot to take advantage. He shot just 23.6 percent from the field during Detroit’s four summer league games.
HEY THERE, HANNAH
Remember Stefhon Hannah?
The former Tiger, who got booted off the basketball team in 2008 after he sustained a broken jaw in a bar fight at Club Athena, made a ripple this weekend.
Hannah, playing for the D-League Select team at the Las Vegas summer league, scored a game-high 28 points to help the D-Leaguers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves, 83-81, on Saturday. Then he dropped 14 points Sunday against the Clippers in another win, 83-77.
This could very easily mean nothing for Hannah, who is 28. But maybe it persuades an NBA team to offer a 10-day contract? Either way, it was fun to hear his name again.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
Stefhon Hannah is my favorite player with a palindromic last name.