The Missouri Tigers have been a pleasant surprise this college football season. The Tigers are 6-0 and coming off a big win at College Station. Their schedule gets much tougher this week as they welcome the Oklahoma Sooners to Columbia.
The Sooners opened as 2 ½ point road favorites and the college football line has moved up slightly to 3 points. While that is a tempting play, the total looks more attractive. The line started at 52 ½ and has come up to 53 points at most sites. The betting public is murdering the over, playing it at better than 95%. However, fading the public favorite in this situation seems like a good play.
Both teams have potentially explosive offenses – there’s no denying that. But don’t forget about how good these defenses have been. First, the Missouri Tigers have been off the charts. In terms of scoring defense, Mizzou is #2 in the nation at 10.8 points per game. Only TCU is ranked better. In their past 3 games, they’re giving up a little more than 7 points a game, and they held an offensively capable Aggies team to just 9 points in College Station. Teams are averaging 3.5 yards per carry, while quarterbacks are completing passes at a 58.8% clip. In total, the Tigers are giving up just 329 yards per game.
Oklahoma’s defense has been solid, though not as dominating as Missouri’s. The Sooner D is ranked #28 in scoring defense, giving up just 19 points a game. They shutout the Iowa State Cyclones in their last game. Against Texas, the Sooners gave up 20 points; against Florida State, they gave up 17 points and 7 came on a meaningless, last second score when the starters were out of the game. They’re giving up 4 yards per carry and a pass completion percentage of 54.1. All in all, the D is yielding a respectable 373 yards per game.
The situational numbers see Missouri slowing the game down and Oklahoma speeding it up. Over the past 3 seasons, Mizzou has played the total 4-9 at home, 2-5 as an underdog, 3-7 in October, and 9-10 against conference opponents. Oklahoma, over the same time period, has played the total 6-4 on the road, 17-12 as a favorite, 6-5 in October, and 12-7 against conference opponents.
With respect to these numbers, something has to give. Considering all of the square money coming in on the over, we like the opposite side in this situation. One reason is that both teams will likely come out conservatively. If this was being played in Norman, the under wouldn’t seem so good. But in Columbia, chances are that Bob Stoops will play it closer to the vest. He’ll certainly want to take some shots, and the offense is, by its nature, quite explosive. But Stoops will be reluctant to let his players make mistakes to get behind on the road against a good team. On the flip side, Mizzou has to understand that they can’t outscore Oklahoma. They just don’t have the talent on offense that the Sooners have. That’s not to say they have a poor offense – they’re actually pretty good. But if they get into a shootout with Oklahoma, they’ll likely lose. The best chance Missouri has of winning this game is to out-hit the Sooners. If they can make this a physical, smash-mouth football game, then the Tiger defense can take control of the game. That’s where Mizzou has an advantage – on defense, not offense.
The two offenses in this game will catch a lot of publicity, and the public obviously likes the over. But don’t underestimate how good the two defenses have been playing. The total is getting pushed up by the squares, and it might get as high as 55 points. Wait until you can get the best number, and back the under.
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