HOOVER, Ala. – Missouri should embrace the status quo. Each black-and-gold-loving soul should hope there’s never a tectonic shift in the SEC, one that would move rooting interests west.
Changing divisions with, say, Auburn would be a disaster for Missouri.
The SEC East is a cute little ball pit at McDonald’s. The SEC West is a swamp with snakes prepared to strike everywhere.
Let’s be real: How would Missouri matter if it found itself fighting for breath against Alabama and LSU each year? How would Mizzou create enough noise to be more than an afterthought as the SEC’s biggest beasts in more fertile recruiting areas fought for supremacy?
Love the SEC East, Mizzou. Hold that pillow pet tight, give it a big smooch and never let go.
“I would definitely embrace playing in the West,” Missouri wide receiver J’Mon Moore said at SEC Media Days on Wednesday. “That would be cool. So if they do that, that would be a good opportunity for our guys. I’m pretty sure they would embrace it. It would be a good thing. That’s actually a pretty cool deal.”
Blame Pat Dye for these shenanigans. He made waves in May when he suggested that Auburn move to the SEC East and Missouri slide to the West. The former Auburn coach – shocker! – thought about his old school’s best interests when he made a comment that rumbled across Paul Finebaum Land.
Who wouldn’t want to stumble from a UFC octagon and fall into a sandbox?
But that development would hurt Missouri more than it would help Auburn.
After all, Mizzou is trying to establish an identity in the SEC. Missouri won two SEC East titles in its first five years in the league, but there’s a “meh” factor with the Show-Me State Tigers among some conference observers. Moving to the SEC West would mean a longer climb to Atlanta each year and more uncertainty on the field. After a 4-8 finish in coach Barry Odom’s first year in 2016, the Tigers’ path forward through its current forest is anything but clear.
Sure, Florida and Georgia are rising. Kentucky and South Carolina have received preseason praise. Vanderbilt deserves attention. Tennessee can recapture its former glory.
But we all know the SEC West powers are the muscles showcased on a national stage.
Fortunately for Mizzou, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey swatted away the realignment talk – again – on Monday by all but saying the topic is something between hogwash and hollow nonsense.
So until Dye becomes the SEC’s big boss, don’t hold your breath that realignment will shake the SEC soon. That’s a win for Missouri.
“It’s not been on any agenda item that I know of,” Odom said when asked by SEC Country about the realignment topic. “[Sankey] addressed it pretty well. And it’s not there. And right now, I need to focus on making sure that Mizzou football is as good as we can get on the schedule we play and the division we play. So I’m excited where we are, and we’ll stand with Commissioner Sankey on our conference stance on that.”
But … what if? Missouri players didn’t back down from the harrowing hypothetical.
“We would definitely embrace it,” Mizzou quarterback Drew Lock said. “We played Mississippi State my freshman year [in 2015], at LSU last year. Both very good teams. … We’d embrace it. But I think we’re starting to kind of get used to our division now. Our fans are getting used to it. I think maybe doing that would obviously throw us for a loop again. But we’d adjust.”
“Way above my pay grade,” Missouri linebacker Eric Beisel said. “But whatever they decide to do, if there’s a football and we’ve got pads on and we’re playing the sport we love, then so be it.”
It’s one thing to envision poking the conference’s giants. It’s another to stare them down year after year and breakthrough more than blink.
Mizzou will be better off if it avoids taking punches in a larger weight class.
“You’d get to play Alabama. You’d get to play Auburn, Ole Miss, schools that we don’t really get to see, just depending on how things fall,” Moore said. “So that would be a great experience just to flip sides, and you’ve already been on one side. I don’t think too many people had that experience. So that’s kind of pretty cool if that happened.
“Missouri can hang with whoever.”
Mizzou better hope it never has to test that theory in the wicked SEC West.