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August 29, 2012

Powered Up: Let the Games Begin

I could spend hours digging up all the quotes from media members and coaches across the country talking about how Missouri is jumping into the deep end of the pool and how hard it is going to be to compete in the Southeastern Conference.

And if I were Gary Pinkel and it was my job to motivate the Missouri football team, that's probably exactly what I'd do over the next seven days or so.

I could also dig up a bunch of numbers about how Missouri is among the top ten or 12 teams in the country in terms of wins the last five years, how they rank in the top half of the SEC in terms of wins, bowl games and top 25 finishes over the last ten years (notice those numbers go back to some of the "lean years" before the Tigers got good to avoid other fanbases telling me I'm cherrypicking) and tell you that Mizzou hasn't exactly been playing in some red-headed stepchild of a conference over that time. I could tell you how those numbers tell me the Tigers might be just fine in their new conference.

And if I were Chad Moller and it was my job to be the PR guy for Missouri football, that's probably exactly what I would do over the next seven days or so.

But neither of those job descriptions is mine. So I'm not going to waste my time.

If you want to get your panties in a bunch every time a radio guy with a Southern drawl (or a Kansas City accent) tells you how hard it's going to be for Missouri, feel free. I'm not going to tell you how to spend your time. If you want to fire back at every Kansas, Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma fan that tweets you telling you how Missouri football will be forever irrelevant, if you want to tell them how utterly awful that makes the league they are still in sound, again, go ahead. Maybe you have enough free time to do it and that's how you choose to spend it.

But you know what the beauty of Saturday night is going to be? Come Saturday night, none of that stuff is going to matter.

Radio show hosts and bloggers and TV guys and people with jobs like mine make good money off of college football. And part of that is drawing on the passion of the fans. College football isn't a three-month-a-year thing anymore. It's year round. Fans are passionate. All of those mediums survive and thrive completely BECAUSE fans care so much. But all of what we have said over the last nine months means exactly NOTHING come Saturday night at 6 p.m.

I picked Missouri to win eight games this year in the regular season. I might be exactly right. I might end up looking like a moronic mouthpiece for Mizzou. I might have undersold them. I have no idea. And come Saturday, it doesn't matter what I think.

Truth be told, it hasn't mattered what I think for the last nine months either. But without any games to talk about, all anybody has to discuss are opinions. And there are plenty of them out there.

Now that Penn State has been punished and the games are about to begin, the move of the Tigers and Texas A&M to the SEC is going to be the most talked-about story in college football for the next few months (alongside the first season under sanctions in Happy Valley, the lack of effect of sanctions on USC and Urban Meyer's return to college football).

Every weekend, local and national media will be writing referendums. The move to the SEC will either be a shocking success or a bitter failure. Of course, we won't know. But that won't stop people from talking and writing about it as if we do.

On Saturday night, for the first time in ten months, we get to simply talk about football. Actually, truth be told, it's the first time in much longer than that. Conference realignment has hung like a stationary cloud over Columbia for the better part of 27 months now. Even when the games were going on, somewhere in the background lurked the question of where Missouri would play its next season.

We know now. The one thing I can promise you is that Missouri is going to be in the SEC for a long time. How well they will do is completely unknown. We're about to find out.

It is perhaps the biggest story in college football. And we've all got a front row seat. It's time to watch it unfold.

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