Missouri vs. Kentucky Betting Odds & Pick: Can Wildcats Cover in Columbia? (Oct. 24)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Nick Bolton #32 of the Missouri Tigers.
Missouri vs. Kentucky Odds
|Missouri Odds||+3.5 [BET NOW]|
|Kentucky Odds||-3.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||+140/-175 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||47 [BET NOW]|
|Time||4 p.m. ET|
Kentucky has Missouri’s number of late, having won each of the past five meetings between the two SEC schools. The Wildcats won easily last year in Lexington, but that game featured Lynn Bowden going bonkers in a monsoon at Kroger Field.
With Bowden now in the NFL and clear conditions projected in Columbia on Saturday afternoon, this one should be much more competitive. Let’s take a closer look at the matchup.
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Similar to Kentucky, Missouri dropped it first two games against Alabama and Tennessee. It also then bounced back with a thrilling 45-41 home victory over the reigning national champion LSU Tigers — despite losing the turnover battle, 3-0.
In that victory, Connor Bazelak threw for over 400 yards even without starting receivers Keke Chism and Damon Hazelton. Although, for what it’s worth, Hazelton is listed as a third-stringer on this week’s depth chart after the highly-touted Virginia Tech transfer had drop issues to start the season.
Bazelak has been very strong to start the season, ranking eighth nationally in Adjusted Completion Percentage out of 85 quarterbacks with at least 50 drop backs in 2020. His early-season surface stats were a bit skewed by some key drops. He’s also only been under pressure about 27% of the time but has fared well in those situations.
Almost every single advanced metric points to a promising career for the freshman, who rightfully won the quarterback competition during the first couple games against junior TCU transfer Shawn Robinson. I’m a buyer in Bazelak, who also has a nice safety blanket in four-year running back Larry Rountree III.
On the other side of the ball, Missouri has allowed just 3.7 yards per rush on the season, despite playing LSU, Alabama and Tennessee. That shouldn’t be surprising for the Tigers, whose scheme looks to take away opposing ground games. They finished 2019 allowing just 3.8 yards per carry, but did lose two key players to the NFL in linebacker Cale Garrett and defensive tackle Jordan Elliott.
The defensive line could be a bit shorthanded as Mizzou will likely be without Chris Turner and Kobie Whiteside once again, but star linebacker Nick Bolton should make his presence felt all afternoon against Kentucky’s heavy run-based attack. Missouri also has a pair of reliable senior safeties in Tyree Gillespie and Joshuah Bledsoe. Gillespie in particular can be highly effective in the box against the run, which will come in handy against UK.
The weakness of Missouri’s defense so far has been in coverage, which isn’t that surprising since it lost both starting corners from last season’s top-20 passing defense. DeMarkus Acy signed with the 49ers for a brief period this summer while Christian Holmes transferred to Oklahoma State. That said, these raw corners got thrown into the fire right off the bat against the likes of LSU and Alabama.
Special Teams: Missouri has a potential future star in freshman Harrison Mevis, who has connected on two of three from beyond 50 yards so far this season. The Tigers have also had some success on the punt team this season, ranking in the top 15 nationally in net punting average — although that number is skewed by a 66-yard punt against LSU.
Oddly enough, Missouri’s punter is Kentucky graduate transfer Grant McKinnis, who punted for Kentucky in 2016. He’s nowhere near the level of Duffy, however.
After dropping their first two games against Auburn and Ole Miss, the Wildcats bounced back with two dominant victories over Mississippi State and Tennessee by a combined score of 58-9.
After getting some unlucky bounces in its first two contests, Kentucky benefited from an absurd 10 interceptions in its two wins. As a result, the offense didn’t have to do much with quarterback Terry Wilson going 20-for-35 for just 174 yards across those two games. In their two losses, the Cats were -4 in the turnover department, failing to register a single takeaway.
Just like last season, Kentucky is heavily reliant on its ground game, averaging over 40 rush attempts for over 200 yards at a clip of 4.8 yards a pop — which all rank in the top 25 nationally. The biggest strength on this Cats team is the offensive line, which is a top-10 unit from a talent perspective.
Meanwhile, UK is averaging 142.5 passing yards per game, which ranks 69th out of 73 non-option offenses. Its passing attack has been almost invisible over the first month of the year.
The defense has been fairly strong and does a great job of mixing up coverages on the back end but it’s worth noting the Wildcats will be without star nose tackle Quinton Bohanna, who was playing at an All-SEC level. Not only did he clog up the middle, he also could generate interior pressure, as he showed against Mississippi State, which directly led to multiple interceptions.
The good news is Bohanna didn’t suffer a serious injury, but he still won’t travel to Columbia. Kentucky has a 4- and 5-star behind him in the depth chart, but there will undoubtedly be a drop-off in production since Bohanna was playing at such an elite level.
Special Teams: Kentucky has one of the best punters in the nation in 2019 Ray Guy Award winner Max Duffy. However, the field goal kicking is not very reliable, as we saw against Ole Miss when UK missed an extra point in overtime that ended the game.
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Betting Analysis & Pick
Just like the first four games for Kentucky, turnovers could be a major storyline. Missouri has been very careless with the football, losing five of 10 fumbles (including three muffed punts) while only forcing one. That said, turnovers have very high variance and low predictive value, so the regression monster could potentially be on the Tigers’ side here.
I think Missouri’s scheme can help contain Kentucky’s ground game, forcing Wilson to beat the Tigers through the air and I’m just not sure this Kentucky passing offense can fully exploit the Tigers’ vulnerable corners.
I do see a bit of value in this line, but I especially love the situational spot. Kentucky really got the short end of the stick in the SEC with the COVID schedule reshuffling, which is a bit unfair since the Wildcats didn’t have any of the problems.
Instead of catching Georgia this week in a potential letdown spot after the Alabama game, they will face Georgia next week instead. Additionally, they’ll have to travel to Missouri to face a Tigers team coming off of a bye week.
This is a classic sandwich spot for Kentucky after an enormous program win over Tennessee, which marked its first win in Knoxville since 1984, and a highly-anticipated home game against Georgia on deck. It would not shock me if the Cats came out a little flat and unfocused here.
Meanwhile, the bye week should benefit a Missouri team that underwent a head coaching and offensive scheme change in the offseason. The seniors should also be extra fired up for this one after getting embarrassed last year and losing by one point at home in 2018 in a controversial finish.
Pick: Missouri +4 or better