South Dakota vs Missouri Odds, Prediction: Bet Tigers in Season Opener
Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images. Pictured: Missouri wide receiver Luther Burden III.
South Dakota vs Missouri Odds
It's often very difficult to handicap a Power 5 vs. FCS game.
What if the Power 5 team lays an egg, knowing their overwhelming talent and depth advantage will carry the day, regardless of effort? What if the opposite happens, and they gain such a commanding lead they empty the bench, allowing an overmatched but feisty opponent to rally and earn the backdoor cover?
What if the Power 5 team has an overwhelming advantage with its defense and a reason to keep playing hard all the way until the whistle on offense?
The Missouri Tigers are more likely than not going to blow out the South Dakota Coyotes on Thursday night, while the nation’s eyes are trained on bigger games in Utah and Minnesota.
But Eli Drinkwitz and his team have a lot of reasons to keep their foot on the gas pedal.
The Coyotes suffered through a rough 2022 season. They finished with a 3-9 record, near the bottom of the Missouri Valley Conference, and had a midseason quarterback controversy as Iowa State transfer Aidan Bouman replaced starter Carson Camp.
To top it off, they had to watch in-state rival South Dakota State hoist the FCS National Championship trophy.
Offense was a struggle, as the Coyotes failed to score over 10 points in four different games. The team is built on power running but is switching this year to a more modern concept, bringing in South Dakota State wide receiver coach Josh Davis as offensive coordinator.
A new playbook might lead to some improvement against FCS peers, but it’s hard to see this unit finding the end zone with regularity against a quality SEC defense.
South Dakota is marginally better on defense. It has some all-conference performers in linebackers Brock Mogensen and Stephen Hills, and Myles Harden is a quality defensive back. But overall, this is a small group and will struggle to contain former five-star recruits like Luther Burden and Theo Wease. It'll also get pushed around by eventual NFL prospects like Javon Foster and Cam’Ron Johnson.
While the new offensive scheme and the returning stars on defense might lead to better play at the FCS level, the Coyotes will be overmatched on Thursday.
You might have missed it considering how bad their defense was in 2021, but the Tigers sported a quality stop unit in 2022 and return eight starters on that side of the ball this season.
Blake Baker’s defense was aggressive and Havoc-focused and should be even better with star players returning at every level. Defensive lineman Darius Robinson and linebacker Ty’Ron Hopper anchor a front six that's fast and swarming, and Kris Abrams-Draine and Ennis Rakestraw Jr. are one of the best cornerback duos in the country.
Mizzou’s defense finished 19th in the country in SP+ and 10th overall in Havoc. While opponents could hit big plays on the Tigers, it was hard to matriculate the ball down the field, as they finished 27th in Success Rate Allowed.
This unit should be even better this fall, with 83% of its production returning in Bill Connelly’s metric for ESPN, good for second overall in the country.
The offense was another story in 2022. Eli Drinkwitz was hired for his offensive acumen, but his team finished 74th in SP+ on that side of the ball and struggled to score against an SEC schedule. Drinkwitz realized he could no longer effectively be a head coach and an offensive coordinator and brought in Kirby Moore — Kellen’s brother — from Fresno State to coordinate and call the offense.
That Drinkwitz did this voluntarily and not kicking and screaming like his cohort in College Station could make all the difference as he and Moore rebuild this side of the ball.
Last year’s Missouri receiving corps was led by three redundant slot receivers. With Dominic Lovett transferring to Georgia and Barrett Banister graduating, Burden is now set to star in the slot, while complementary talents in Wease and Dannis Jackson arrive in the transfer portal.
A pair of reinforcements also arrive to bolster the offensive line in Group of Five all-conference performers Cam’Ron Johnson (guard, Houston) and Marcellus Johnson (tackle, Eastern Michigan).
While those units will be improved with the talent infusion, quarterback play is where the team must really step forward. Brady Cook slogged through a tough season last fall and was playing through a shoulder injury suffered in Week 2.
He's firmly entrenched in a position battle with former blue-chip prospect Sam Horn, a redshirt freshman. The two will split snaps against South Dakota and MTSU in Week 2, a la J.J. McCarthy and Cade McNamara at McMichigan for McHarbaugh last season.
South Dakota vs Missouri
Betting Pick & Prediction
South Dakota’s offense — which ranks 79th in FCS SP+ in preseason projections — will have little hope of moving the ball consistently against Missouri’s defense even when the Tigers have their backups in.
The Mizzou offense, meanwhile, will play hard, and both quarterbacks will be getting plenty of opportunities to run with the first-stringers.
While Missouri won’t actively try to run the score up, it will be trying to sort through a complicated QB depth chart and give both players an honest night’s work. For that reason, I think the Tigers won’t step off the gas until late, and that’s why I will lay the points up to 31.