Yesterday, I shared my initial thoughts on Missouri’s move to the SEC and why the move didn’t make sense to me. Today, I want to tackle two specific issues in the Tigers’ conference switch. First, I want to speak directly to Missouri fan on the bowl selection process, and second, I want to address the potential home field Missouri would have in the SEC.
During Missouri’s initial process of leaving the Big 12, they questioned the league on the bowl selection process which often rendered the Tigers a lesser choice in bowl games. The process always seems to work Missouri’s media; the day after Iowa State upset Oklahoma State to become bowl eligible, the Columbia Daily Tribune published an article that was already bemoaning Missouri’s bowl prospects three weeks before the selections were made. I know that it’s not fair, Missouri fan, but you have to get over be relegated to bad bowls. It’s not about your season, it’s about your fan base. And it’s not going to get better in the SEC.
For starters, the bowl selection process isn’t like the NCAA tournament selection, so don’t make that comparison. the NCAA tournament picks teams based on merit, and even that process is subjective and gets tweaked every year. That is a process to select teams to play in a national championship tournament, so complaining about seeding, while petty, is reasonably fair. The bowl selection process, while it considers records and tries to reward the teams with the best season, values your fan base and whether or not they can be counted on to travel and spend their tourist dollars in the city where the bowl is being played. Missouri has a poor record for doing that.
I know Missouri list of bowl disappointments: getting passed down to the Independence Bowl multiple times; the Insight Bowl picking Iowa State over Missouri in 2009, when Missouri had two more wins and beat Iowa State; and last year getting passed on by the Cotton Bowl when Missouri had dominated Cotton Bowl-invitee Texas A&M in College Station. Complain if you will, but the reason the Tigers are in these games is the 2008 Alamo. The year before, Missouri fans had traveled en masse to the Cotton Bowl after their team had gone 11-2 in the regular season and watched the Tigers crush border-rival Arkansas; the attendance even surpassed that of the previous’ years Nebraska-Auburn game (attended by yours truly). This was a great opportunity for Missouri to build on momentum, but David Ubben pointed this out in his Big 12 blog for ESPN following Missouri’s drop to the Texas Bowl in 2009: the 2008 Alamo Bowl had the worst Alamo Bowl attendance in five years by 10,000. Yes, the other team was Northwestern, whose alumni are less passionate about football than Missouri’s, but come on. The Alamo Bowl is in one of America’s best recreational cities, not Shreveport, Louisiana.
And as a Nebraska fan, let me point something out to you: this system has worked in your favor, and you didn’t complain about it. Last year, when Nebraska was the school leaving the Big 12, the Insight Bowl took you over them, because it already had Iowa, who they knew would sell tickets. Nebraska crushed you and won your division, reasons you were pointing that you should gotten to the Insight bowl in 2009 over Iowa State. Now, to your credit, the Insight Bowl did have record attendance that year, more than Iowa State-Minnesota did the year before. But when the system works in your favor, don’t complain when it doesn’t. And by the way: you have only yourself to blame when a regional school in a small state gets picked over you to go to a bowl game.
By the way, how in the world do you expect the bowl selection process to be any better in the SEC? As I’ve said yesterday, every fan base in the SEC (even Mississippi and Mississippi State) care more passionately about their teams, and pretty much all of them have travel advantages over you to most of the bowls in Florida. If you do manage to make it to a bowl game most years, get ready for a lot of trips to Nashville, Memphis, and yes, Birmingham, Alabama’s falling-down Legion Field, what Pat Forde considers the worst bowl site in all college football. At least the two of the Big 12’s worst bowls are played in Houston’s Reliant Stadium and New Yankee Stadium.
One of the obvious things that may benefit Missouri football in the SEC is weather. With its northern locale that gets nippy in November, Missouri may benefit from getting Florida, Georgia, or Texas A&M up on their tundra in 40 degrees and a blustery wind. Look at Oklahoma State’s game at Iowa State: the Cowboys play in Ames on a short week, at night in the wind, and looked like they didn’t want to be there. During Nebraska’s famous game in the rain at Missouri in 2009, Jayson Whitlock speculated to Lincoln Journal-Star reporters that players were too used to practicing in nice indoor practice facilities, and even a little bad weather gets them off-target.
But Missouri’s November home field advantage in the SEC may not be the boon that Iowa State’s has the potential to be in the Big 12, or that what Missouri’s was in Big 12 for that matter, when the Tigers beat Texas and Texas Tech in their final two home games. First, the Big 12 is more a finesse, timing league that can be easily upset by conditions. The SEC is a league built on toughness, defense, and straight-ahead running, all things that travel to cold weather well. In an snow-game in November, Georgia or South Carolina could come into Columbia and run 50 times, while Missouri struggles to run its spread, the definition of getting embarrassed in your own house.
And unlike Iowa State, Missouri isn’t well-suited to play an underdog, fly-in-the-oinment roll in the SEC. Paul Rhoads can rant and rave to his Iowa State team about how all the down-south Texas and Oklahoma schools overlook them, and how they have they have the backing of an entire fan base. Pinkel could do the same with Missouri, but they barely have the backing of their state, who’d rather go to Cardinals game in September than drive to Columbia to watch the Tigers play a cupcake.
But the weather in Columbia is what it is, and Missouri will have to maximize every advantage it has in its new, super competitive league.
The Kansas City Star has been largely neutral on Missouri’s move and more concerned about keeping their precious basketball tournament in town. (Shades of Omaha getting paranoid over loosing the College World Series, Ugh.) The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has at least seemed reasonably honest about the challenges Missouri will face in the SEC and leaves the impression that the Tigers will have to step their game up in the new league.
Finally, I have to commend Missouri for at least talking about keeping their rivalry with Kansas intact. Even though the Jayhawks are angered by Missouri’s move and want to end their long series (even in basketball), Missouri seems to be making the initiative to keep the series together, as they should. Missouri and Kansas share a city together, and it would be too bad to see another longtime rivalry go by the wayside as Missouri moves on.