This is as close as it gets to a college football preview for me, because without a playoff system, there's no legitimate championship. The BCS system is like major league baseball saying that the only teams who get to play in the world series are the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies or Dodgers; no one else even gets a chance, regardless of their record. Sorry, Alabama, but you didn't win a national championship—you just won a bowl game, like everyone else.
Having said that, Mizzou is completely off the national radar this year, which I think is just excellent. After several years of hype, one glorious week at number one, and a lifetime of utter futility against Oklahoma, no one is paying attention to Missouri's football program. As far as the national press is concerned, the only team in the Big 12 North is Nebraska, and they're moving to the Big 10 (?!) next year. (Hate to see you go, don't let the door hit you in the butt on the way out, hope to never see you again, blank you very much.)
The problem with Missouri has always been expectations, and although this hold true for basketball as well as football, at least the basketball team has had some legitimately great teams. The same can't be said for football, even during Chase Daniel's glorious career. The team that beat Kansas and spent a week at #1 in the polls didn't play Oklahoma during the regular season, and they got stomped by the Sooners the very next week in the Big 12 (?!) championship.
The hard, cold reality that Mizzou fans have to accept is that we are a mid-major program, which explains our recent success with mid-major coach Gary Pinkel. Missouri is never, ever, ever going to be the kind of football program that can compete with Oklahoma or Texas, never mind Florida, Alabama, LSU, USC or Ohio State. It's simply a matter of reality. Some things just are the way they are. Winona Ryder's cute, but she's not ever going to have Julia Roberts' career. Life's not fair, and neither is football.
Once we accept that as reality, we can enjoy what should be a very nice season. I'm excited to see what Blane Gabbert can do with a year's experience under his chinstrap and two healthy ankles. After tomorrow's game in St. Louis against Illinois, we have three home games against mid-majors followed by the Big 12 (?!) opener against Pac-10 defectors Colorado. I think that game should be an opportunity to take out some serious conference realignment frustrations on the Buffaloes, who should still be awful this season. So we're looking realistically at a 5-0 start, 4-1 at the worst.
The next four weeks are just brutal. At Texas A&M, always a difficult road game for anyone. (I dated a girl in college who lived in Austin and hated the Aggies; she called their pre-game student activities "Hitler Youth Rallies.") Then its back to Columbia for the annual beatdown at the hands of the Sooners, off to Lincoln for another humiliation at the hands of the most smug, insufferable, repulsive fans in any sport, then back to Texas to watch our defense get spun like a piñata by Texas Tech's indefensible spread offense. Going 2-2 in that stretch would be a miracle, and that's only if we can win two road games in Texas. 0-4 is more likely.
The back half of the schedule is favorable; K-State, Iowa State, Kansas. I think we can expect at least 7-8 wins and a modest bowl appearance, which we'll lose to an inferior opponent, just like we usually do. That's Mizzou football, folks. But I was in Columbia from 1986 through 1992 and suffered through 1-11, 2-10, 3-9 seasons. Seven or eight wins and a bowl game is great. This is like Christmas; don't complain about rankings or BCS. That's for the big boys. For us, good enough is good enough.