COLUMBIA — The players and coaches in the Missouri locker room aren't the only ones who think the Tigers can compete in the Southeastern Conference.
Opposing coaches and many analysts think that newcomers Missouri and Texas A&M are more than capable of winning some games in their first season in the conference.
The SEC is widely considered to be the best college football conference in the country, with a member school winning the past six national championship games. Last season, two SEC teams (LSU and Alabama) played each other for the national title, with Alabama winning 21-0. Both teams are considered to be top contenders to win the title this year.
Missouri and Texas A&M are joining the SEC from the Big 12 Conference, which produced the last national champion from a conference other than the SEC (Texas in 2005).
Auburn coach Gene Chizik, who previously coached Iowa State in the Big 12, told ESPN's Mark Schlabach that he doesn't think people are giving the Tigers or Aggies the respect they deserve. Missouri has won at least eight games each of the past six seasons.
Edward Aschoff, also of ESPN, ranked Missouri at No. 9 and Texas A&M at No. 11 in his preseason SEC rankings. The top five teams in his rankings (LSU, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and South Carolina) are all ranked in the top 10 in the preseason AP poll.
One characteristic of the Tigers and Aggies that suggests that they can hang with SEC teams is the number of points they were putting up in the Big 12. Both teams scored enough points last year to have ranked in the top half of the SEC. But both would have ranked in the bottom half of the league in points allowed.
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes that the key to Missouri's success this season is junior quarterback James Franklin. Franklin, a dual-threat quarterback, is the centerpiece for the Tigers' fast-paced offense that put up a lot of points last year and will be expected to do so again.
With several starters on both offense and defense coming back and Dorial-Green Beckham, the top recruit in the nation, joining the team, the expectation is that Missouri won't be a pushover in the SEC this season. But some columnists wonder whether Missouri can ever have any sustained success in the conference.
Burwell wonders whether Missouri fans and boosters can match the passion of other SEC schools. But he is optimistic after seeing the school receive a $30 million donation and announce a large facility upgrade over the summer.
Sam Mellinger of The Kansas City Star isn't sure the Tigers can recruit at the same level as their new counterparts.
The Tigers face Southeastern Louisiana at 6 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
Missouri has won 10 straight season openers, tied for the third-longest streak among SEC schools.
Supervising editor is Frank Russell.