Edwards likes Missouri’s win total ‘over’ 9.5 (+120)

Edwards likes Missouri’s win total ‘over’ 9.5 (+120)

Missouri was one of the nation’s biggest surprises in 2023, compiling an 11-2 straight-up record and a 9-4 against-the-spread mark. The Tigers’ only losses came at Georgia (30-21) and at home vs. LSU in games they led in the second half.

In fact, they led LSU 39-35 with only 3:02 left and facing a third-down situation when Jayden Daniels ripped off a 31-yard run and then threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Malik Nabers on the next play.

LSU added another TD on a pick-six with 34 seconds remaining to make it a misleading 49-39 victory.

Eli Drinkwitz’s team had seven wins by double-digit margins, including victories at Kentucky (38-21), vs. South Carolina (34-12), vs. Tennessee (36-7) and vs. Ohio St. (14-3) at the Cotton Bowl. Mizzou also had a 30-27 home win over Kansas St. on a 61-yard, walk-off field goal by Harris Mevis.

Drinkwitz garnered SEC Coach of the Year honors in the fourth season of his tenure in Columbia. In Year 5, Missouri returns eight starters on offense, five on defense and its punter, although Mevis is gone after an outstanding collegiate career.

Six players off of the Tigers’ 11-win squad were selected in the NFL Draft, including five from the defensive side of the ball.

BetOnline has the Tigers with +250 odds to win the College Football Playoff and 33/1 odds to win the CFP. Those are tied for the ninth-shortest odds to win it all.

Missouri has +1100 (or 11/1) odds to win the SEC Championship Game. The Tigers went to the SECCG by winning the SEC East in two of their first three seasons in the conference (2013 and 2014), but they lost in both instances.

Of course, the league’s division format is gone in 2024 with the additions of Oklahoma and Texas.

Lindy’s magazine has Missouri ranked #11 in its preseason rankings. BetOnline has the Tigers’ season win total at 9.5 (‘under’ -150, ‘over’ +120).

DraftKings has four of Missouri’s 12 regular-season games lined in its Games of the Year. The Tigers are +4 at Texas A&M, -10 vs. Auburn, +8.5 at Alabama and -4 vs. Oklahoma.

The offshore betting shop has quarterback Brady Cook with 25/1 odds to win the Heisman Trophy. WR Luther Burden has 80/1 odds to win the award.

Cook and Burden had banner 2023 campaigns. Cook, who has started 27 consecutive games for Missouri, completed 244-of-369 passes (66.1%) for 3,317 yards with a 21/6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He also had 319 rushing yards and eight TDs.

For the fifth-year senior’s career, Cook has completed 67.1 percent of his throws for 6,716 yards with a 39/13 TD-INT ratio. He also has 1,039 career rushing yards and 16 TDs.

As a true sophomore last year, Burden garnered first-team All-SEC honors after hauling in 86 receptions for 1,212 yards and nine TDs. He added 31 rushing yards on seven attempts for a 4.4 yards-per-carry average, in addition to averaging 8.8 yards on eight punt returns.

In his two-year career, Burden has 131 catches for 1,587 yards and 15 TDs. He also has 119 career rushing yards and two TDs with a 4.8 YPC average. Burden also has a punt return for a TD and an average of 11.1 yards on 20 career punt returns.

Cook’s #2 target, WR Theo Wease, is also back for 2024. Since transferring to Missouri after spending four years in Oklahoma’s program, Wease has caught 49 balls for 682 yards and six TDs in 13 games.

Mookie Cooper is one of the country’s best #3 options. Cooper had 36 receptions for 447 yards last season. In 2022, he had 26 catches for 298 yards.

Drinkwitz loved what he got out of tight end Brett Norfleet as a true freshman last year. He snagged 18 catches for 197 yards and three TDs.

Lindy’s has Missouri’s WRs ranked fourth nationally, with Burden as a preseason first-team All-American.

RB Cody Schrader’s leadership and production will be sorely missed after he set a program record in 2023 by rushing for 1,627 yards and 14 TDs. However, Drinkwitz dipped into the portal to acquire a pair of proven backs.

Marcus Carroll finished second in the Sun Belt Conference and 10th nationally with 1,350 rushing yards for Georgia State in 2023. He had 13 rushing TDs and a 4.9 YPC average.

The Tigers found another veteran RB from the Sun Belt in Nate Noel, who has been a steady producer for Appalachian St. over the last four seasons. Noel has 3,074 career rushing yards, 18 TDs and a 5.7 YPC average.

Missouri returns three starters on the offensive line and added one of the best o-linemen out of the transfer portal. Speaking of the portal, the Tigers have the nation’s #14 transfer-specific group according to the 247Sports Composite.

Drinkwitz has 15 transfers in a 36-man class that’s ranked #21 overall. Mizzou’s 2024 recruiting class has one five-star prospect, 11 four-star players and 23 three-star prospects.

Four of the 15 transfers have four-star ratings, including Cayden Green, who started five games as a true freshman at Oklahoma in 2023 and didn’t give up a sack. Green played offensive guard for the Sooners, but he’s expected to move to left tackle this year. Lindy’s has Green as a preseason second-team All-SEC choice.

The three other four-star transfers are EDGE Darris Smith (Georgia), CB Toriano Pride (Clemson) and LB Jeremiah Beasley (Michigan). Like Green, Pride is a preseason second-team All-SEC selection in Lindy’s magazine.

Beasley will actually be a true freshman. He was an early enrollee for the Wolverines but after participating in spring practice in Ann Arbor, he opted to transfer to Mizzou. After recording only four tackles in 16 games as a backup in two seasons at UGA, Smith joined the Tigers in hopes of earning more playing time.

Missouri finished 25th nationally in scoring defense last year, giving up an average of 20.8 points per game. Drinkwitz saw his defensive coordinator Blake Baker leave to take the same gig at LSU, though.

He’s replaced him with Corey Batoon, who was South Alabama’s DC last year. Batoon’s defense with the Jaguars in 2023 finished #15 in the country in total defense, #19 in run defense, #28 at defending the pass and #26 in scoring ‘D’ (21.0 PPG).

Up front, the Tigers bring back a pair of senior starters in EDGE Johnny Walker Jr. and DT Kristian Williams. Walker produced 43 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, nine QB hurries, five sacks and three forced fumbles in 2023. Meanwhile, Williams recorded 25 tackles, five TFL’s, two passes broken up, two forced fumbles and one QB hurry.

Smith is expected to start at the other EDGE position, while the other DT spot will likely be occupied by Chris McClellan, a transfer from Florida. In two seasons at UF, McClellan had 46 tackles, 3.5 TFL’s, two sacks, a pair of QB hurries and one fumble recovery in 15 games.

LB Chuck Hicks returns after contributing 53 tackles, 11 TFL’s, two sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one PBU. In Missouri’s 4-2-5 scheme, Triston Newson is expected to start at the other LB spot, with South Alabama transfer Khalil Jacobs providing depth behind Hicks and Newson.

Jacobs had 56 tackles, 8.5 TFLs, three sacks, three forced fumbles and one interception for the Jaguars in 2023. Newson produced 51 tackles, seven TFL’s, two QB hurries, two fumble recoveries and 0.5 sacks for the Tigers.

The secondary must replace three of five starters who were selected in the 2024 NFL Draft, including CB Ennis Rakestraw Jr. (Round 2, Detroit Lions), CB Kris Abrams-Draine (Round 5, Denver Broncos) and safety Jaylon Carlies (Round 5, Indianapolis Colts).

The returning starters are safeties Daylan Carnell and Joseph Charleston, who was the Tigers’ second-leading tackler last year. Charleston, a super senior who played at Clemson from 2019-21 and is entering his third season at Mizzou, produced 61 tackles, four PBU, one forced fumble and 0.5 TFL’s in 2023.

Carnell recorded 51 tackles, eight QB hurries, seven PBU, six TFL’s, three sacks, two forced fumbles and a 38-yard pick-six. In 31 career games across three seasons at Mizzou, Carnell has 83 tackles, 13 PBU, nine QB hurries, eight TFL’s, four interceptions for 79 return yards, three sacks, two pick-sixes, two forced fumbles and a pair of fumble recoveries.

Tre’Vez Johnson will take over the third starting safety spot. In his first year with the Tigers after playing in 34 games for Florida from 2020-22, Johnson contributed 43 tackles and one TFL last season.

Pride and Dreyden Norwood will start at the CB positions. Pride played in 26 games as a freshman and sophomore at Clemson, recording 30 tackles, eight PBU, two TFL’s, one sack and one interception. In two years at Mizzou, Norwood has produced 34 tackles, seven PBU, two fumble recoveries, one interception, one sack and one TFL.

Bettors usually expect some regression after a program experiences a five-win jump from six wins in 2022 to 11 victories last year. In fact, it was the Tigers’ first 11-win season since 2014.

But I don’t see that with Mizzou this year. Why, you ask? Well, look no further than the schedule.

Despite the additions of Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC, the Tigers somehow have an easier slate in 2024. Although Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M and Oklahoma have been added, Georgia, LSU, Tennessee and Florida have been removed.

Instead of playing at Kentucky like last season, Missouri will play at Mississippi St. Just like the Crimson Tide and the Aggies, the Bulldogs are breaking in a new head coach. Likewise, Boston College has a new HC.

Rather than hosting Kansas St., the Tigers’ only Power Four non-conference opponent is the Eagles, who hired former Penn St. and Houston Texans HC Bill O’Brien to replace Jeff Hafley. This will be a revenge game for Mizzou, who lost at BC in overtime in 2021.

Instead of playing an elite Group of Five opponent (Memphis) in St. Louis like last year, the Tigers play at UMass.

Missouri will probably be a favorite of at least 17 points in each of its first four games in September that are all at home vs. Murray St., Buffalo, Boston College and Vanderbilt. So obviously, I’m expecting a 4-0 start.

Then the Tigers get an open date and two weeks to prepare for a trip to College Station, where Mike Elko has taken over for Jimbo Fisher. Unlike Mizzou, Texas A&M doesn’t have an open date on Sept. 28.

Instead, the Aggies have a rivalry game against Arkansas in Arlington, TX., as their SEC opener. Therefore, even though it’s a road game in front of 100,000 fans in a hostile environment, a rested Missouri squad is an advantageous spot for that contest.

In fact, two of the Tigers’ three toughest games (at Alabama is the toughest) are ideal scenarios from a situational perspective. They also have two weeks to prepare for a Nov. 9 home game vs. Oklahoma.

Although I’m not definitively conceding defeat for Missouri in Tuscaloosa, it’ll more than likely be in bounce-back mode two weeks later when it hosts the Sooners, who will be playing their fifth game in five weeks.

Despite the four-point underdog status at Texas A&M, I like the Tigers’ chances of winning outright at Kyle Field. But even with a loss in College Station, they’ll easily win at UMass the following week to improve to 5-1 going into a home game vs. Auburn.

With homefield and a lopsided advantage at the QB position, I think Missouri improves to 6-1 with a win over Auburn ahead of the trip to Bryant-Denny Stadium.

We’ll call it a loss at Alabama, but I like Mizzou to respond with a home win over Oklahoma. That leaves it 7-2 going into the final three-game stretch: at South Carolina, at Mississippi St. and at home vs. Arkansas in the regular-season finale.

The Gamecocks no longer have a proven QB, and they have a season win total of 5.5. I like Mizzou to win back-to-back road games in (the other) Columbia and Starkville. I think the Tigers will be double-digit home ‘chalk’ against the Razorbacks.

PREDICTION: Like every ‘over’ bet on a season win total, gamblers obviously run the risk of getting bitten by the injury bug, especially at the QB position. I’m sure as hell not any different in that regard.

In fact, I lost an ‘over’ on Boston College by one game in 2021 due to QB Phil Jurkovec’s injury that sidelined him for six games. The Eagles went 2-4 without him, but he returned to lead them to back-to-back victories that gave them a 6-4 record ahead of home games vs. FSU and Wake Forest. However, with a win total of seven, they lost 26-23 to the Seminoles before going down again vs. the Demon Deacons.

Then in 2022, I played Fresno St. to go ‘over’ 8.5 wins. The Bulldogs won in Week 1 and then lost 35-32 at home vs. Oregon St. when the Beavers scored a TD on the final play of the game. In a Week 3 loss at seventh-ranked USC, Fresno St. star QB Jake Haener sustained a knee injury that would keep him out for the next four games.

Despite Haener’s absence, Fresno St. was still a 23-point road favorite at UConn in Week 4. Nevertheless, the Bulldogs lost 19-14 to the Huskies. After a 40-20 loss at Boise St. dropped Jeff Tedford’s team to 1-4 the following week, my ‘over’ 8.5 ticket was dead and shredded in early October.

So naturally, Fresno St. won its next nine games, including a revenge victory at Boise St. in the Mountain West Championship Game and a 29-6 win over Washington St. at the Los Angeles Bowl, to finish 10-4 overall. (Only the 12 regular-season games count toward wagers on season win totals. Bowl games and conference championship games do not count.)

Anyhow, now that the ‘over’ warnings are out of the way with two backbreaking examples, I’ll nonetheless recommend an ‘over’ play on Missouri in 2024. Again, it’ll all about the schedule.

Actually, I shouldn’t say ‘all.’ I like the personnel and the head coach a lot. The offense should be dynamic and improved.

Drinkwitz shrewdly filled roster holes through portal additions. Pride shouldn’t be much of a downgrade from Rakestraw at CB, and the Carroll-Noel combination will be solid.

The QB, the offensive line and WRs should be even better.

Therefore, I’m placing 1.5 units on Missouri to go ‘over’ 9.5 wins for a +120 return. 

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

-For more analysis of the 2024 Mizzou Tigers, check out one of my recent podcasts that I co-host with Chattanooga Times Free Press columnist, Jay Greeson, for Southeastern 14. We call it Bets & Ballgames with Edwards & Greeson, it’s a once-a-week pod and you can check out our preview of Missouri here (starting at the 15-minute mark). We record every Friday this time of year (Thursdays during football season), and you can subscribe to Southeastern 14’s YouTube channel here.

-Lindy’s has junior OT Armand Membou as a preseason third-team All-SEC pick.

-The prize of Mizzou’s 2024 recruiting class and the lone five-star prospect is EDGE Williams Nwaneri, a Lee’s Summit North (MO.) High School product who is ranked as the nation’s #6 overall prospect. The 247Sports Composite has him as the country’s #2 EDGE and the #1 player out of the state of Missouri. However, Nwaneri didn’t enroll early and wasn’t at spring practice.

-Only six of the 20 incoming freshmen enrolled early and were at spring practice. A seventh player, juco transfer OT Jayven Richardson, did enroll early, though.

-Drinkwitz and his staff have high hopes for incoming freshman WR Courtney Crutchfield, a four-star prospect ranked as the #43 overall freshman, the #10 WR and the #2 player out of the state of Arkansas.