Prior to the 2013 kickoff, USA Today’s Paul Myerberg called nine wins Missouri’s “dream season.”

Athlon Sports’ panel projected four-to-seven wins under the headline “Will the Tigers make a bowl in 2013?”

The Bleacher Report predicted 7-6 including a generous Liberty Bowl win.

Most of the 2013 predictions are buried deep in the recesses of the internet, ashamed to be found. But they’re there, and just as ludicrous. Not even the most ardent Missouri fans thought the team would come within a quarter or so of a national championship game.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier called the time before the season opener “talking season” at SEC Media Days. We all make our predictions and projections. The louder and more emphatic we are, the more right we’ll sound, it seems. As if our worth as human beings is defined by us somehow nailing our preseason college football picks, which, of course, should be right since we know more than anybody else.

I’m as guilty as anyone. During a conversation at the SDS office here in Orlando, Fla., this week, discussing which teams will make the College Football Playoff, I got a little too confident in one of my assertions.

“What about Auburn and Missouri last year?” my colleague retorted. I couldn’t come up with an intelligent response.

The best are those who snipe at the picks of others, noting how ridiculous they sound. Well, picking Auburn and Missouri to win their respective divisions in 2013 would’ve sounded pretty ridiculous this time last year.

That’s what makes Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples so smart. Asked who will win the SEC East, Staples actually laughs out loud, incredulous at the question. (Check out the 4:40 mark.)

“Especially the East, anybody who says they know who’s going to win the East is out of their mind,” Staples told Saturday Down South. “It could be anybody.”

The Tigers, of course, watched Florida and Georgia disintegrate due to injuries and poor play. Kentucky and Tennessee didn’t have the talent to compete for a division title, and Vanderbilt’s respectable effort still wasn’t enough. South Carolina knocked off Missouri, but the Gamecocks already had lost two SEC games.

Several teams stalked the Tigers after an injury sidelined senior quarterback James Franklin, but an untested freshman named Maty Mauk helped coach Gary Pinkel lock down the hatches in the SEC East’s poll position. Everyone kept waiting for the other shoe to drop for Missouri, until it didn’t.

Now the Tigers begin their division title defense. The team isn’t favored to win the East, and shouldn’t be. But Missouri has a real chance at another SEC Championship game if Pinkel and the coaching staff continue to maximize the available talent and if the rest of the division continues its frenetic haywire act.

The SEC season officially kicks off Thursday, with SEC East rival South Carolina facing Texas A&M at 6 p.m. ET.

Missouri faces FCS school South Dakota State on Saturday, and won’t begin to determine its own SEC fate until traveling to face the Gamecocks on Sept. 27.

It’s a sure bet that Kentucky won’t win the national championship. As of Wednesday evening, Bovada pegs the over/under for the team’s season wins total at 3.5, though gamblers have to pay a steep price (-180) to get action on four or more wins.

A team like Kentucky could get some breaks one game, some combination of busted coverage, turnovers and injuries, and beat, say, Georgia at home on Nov. 8, throwing the entire SEC East out of whack. Probably not. But not definitely.

As Missouri enters its season, the most common projection is seven to nine wins. That’s in between 5-7 and 12-2.

It seems reasonable. But, until we see the teams perform on the field, until we play the games, does anyone really know?

I say no.

Is anyone else ready for kickoff?