Mizzou would do itself a favor by entering the SEC season 4-0

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

Follow Ben Frederickson on Twitter (@Ben_Fred), or email him at frederickson.ben@gmail.com.