College football has reached Week 11 and the SEC Wizard is back to give you betting picks and tips!
Tennessee-Missouri features two SEC East teams going in opposite directions. The Vols are playing out the season with coach Butch Jones, who probably has 3 more games on the opposite sideline. The Tigers are, shockingly, in position to finish the season on a 6-game winning streak, if all goes well. And Barry Odom has saved his job.
College football betting picks, Tennessee-Missouri
Will Jones give the Vols fan base one more reason to be miserable? Or can Tennessee slow down Drew Lock and send Missouri back to earth?
How Tennessee can win: Run. The. Ball. All game. Tennessee has played 3 quarterbacks this year, and nothing has worked in the passing game. But John Kelly would start for at least 11 SEC teams. If Tennessee can feed him early and often, he’s capable of making Missouri’s defense miss tackles. Success running the ball on early downs would keep the Mizzou offense on the sideline, force the Tigers to stack the box and give Jarrett Guarantano some easier throws.
How Missouri can win: The Tigers turned around their season by getting super aggressive on both sides of the ball. Drew Lock and the passing game keep constant pressure on opposing defenses. And Tennessee is wretched playing from behind. Grab an early lead and Missouri could make this game ugly. And the Tigers have to stop Kelly on first down, as mentioned above.
Here are a few additional nuggets:
- It’s hard to believe now, but Tennessee scored 63 points in a win against Missouri last year.
- In 5 meetings — all since Missouri joined the SEC — the average margin of victory in this series is 15.2 points per game.
- Drew Lock, with a 58-27 career TD-INT ratio, has thrown 3 interceptions against just 1 touchdown against Tennessee.
After starting the year 1-6 against the spread, Butch Jones and the Vols have notched two consecutive covers. Tennessee came within one point of covering against Alabama in Week 9, and lost 15-9 to South Carolina as a 2.5-point favorite while kicking three field goals on drives that stalled just before the end zone.
In other words, Tennessee could easily be 3-1 or 4-0 against the spread in the last month. But instead of getting a little bump in the marketplace, if anything, the Vols have been downgraded. This is their largest underdog spot of the year, as Tennessee was just a 10-point underdog vs. Georgia.
Toss out the 45-7 loss at Alabama, in which its offense didn’t score a single point, and Tennessee’s defense has allowed just 18.0 points per game since a Week 6 bye. It’s another small sign that while not playing at a championship level, the Vols have played more like an average SEC team in the last month.
Despite that, Tennessee is 0-5 in the SEC and still looking for its first conference win. The Vols lost by 6 to Florida, 6 to South Carolina and 3 to Kentucky.
- QB Jarrett Guarantano (ankle) is “ a game-time decision” after leaving last week’s game against Southern Miss. Tennessee burned the redshirt of Will McBride last week, and McBride will start if Guarantano can’t go.
- DE Jonathan Kongbo (suspension) should return after missing the Southern Miss game due to a violation of team rules.
- WR Marquez Callaway (ankle) is doubtful against Missouri. Callaway leads the Vols with 318 receiving yards, but 198 of those came in Weeks 1-3.
- Tennessee is thin at WR, though, as Jauan Jennings, Josh Smith and Latrell Williams are all out for the season.
- OL Marcus Tatum (foot) is out vs. Missouri. OL Brett Kendrick and OL Drew Richmond are questionable, but are expected to play.
- DB/KR Evan Berry is out for the season, Butch Jones announced Wednesday. Berry is one of 10 players out for the year.
The schedule doesn’t seem to matter right now for the Vols. But Tennessee just faced Kentucky and Southern Miss, teams that failed to further demoralize UT. LSU is next.
For whatever it’s worth, a win here would mean Tennessee can go to a bowl game by beating Vanderbilt.
Jones probably gets 3 more games as head coach in Knoxville, much to the chagrin of the majority of the fan base. He’s normally outmatched, but with the pressure basically off and the outcome likely decided, he’s probably capable of matching wits with Barry Odom.
At first glance, Guarantano’s stats are gross. He hasn’t thrown downfield much at all. He’s been sacked 21 times despite attempting just 94 passes. He’s rushed for -17 yards. But in the last 2 games, he’s completed 27 for 36 (75.0%) for 344 yards.
Put him up against Drew Lock and nobody would choose Guarantano. But he’s getting better, and isn’t as bad as some are portraying.
Missouri has covered in 5 consecutive games. The Tigers were -84 against the spread after their first 4 games of the season.
Bookmakers have placed super high totals on Missouri games most of the year. The Tigers faced totals of 71, 76 and 75.5, going under all 3 times. In contrast, Missouri games have gone over the betting total both times that oddsmakers made it less than 60 points.
Only Alabama and Georgia score more points per possession on offense than Missouri.
- RB Damarea Crockett (shoulder), a 1,000-yard rusher last year, is out indefinitely. But Ish Witter (5.5 ypc) and Larry Roundtree (5.8 ypc) have performed well.
- DB Christian Holmes (shoulder) has not played all season, but Barry Odom indicated he’s getting closer to returning. He isn’t expected to play against Tennessee.
Missouri is coming off 3 consecutive dominant wins: vs. Idaho, at UConn and vs. Florida. Vanderbilt and Arkansas are next. A team that took 5 consecutive losses could conceivably finish the season with a 6-game winning streak.
This team is feeling good and should be comfortable playing at home.
He fired his defensive coordinator in September after stripping him of play-calling duties just games into his tenure in 2016. His press conferences invoke comparisons to a used car salesman. His emotional diatribe in the middle of the big losing streak
The knock on Lock always has been the disparity in his performances vs. Power 5 teams compared to all other teams. I’m not sure that picking on a Florida team that quit on its season proved things have changed. But Lock is playing as well as he ever has. And his offensive line is giving him all the protection he needs.
Missouri holds an unquestioned QB advantage in this game.
THE WIZARD’S PREDICTION
Bet: Tennessee +12.5.
Score: Missouri 35, Tennessee 27
Missouri is getting 73 percent of the public betting tickets, and understandably so. The Tigers have saved their season and enter this game on fire, while Tennessee is biding its time until the day it can get rid of Butch Jones — presumably within a matter of weeks.
But I like to look for contrarian plays, and I think this is a good spot. Missouri is getting way too much credit for beating up Idaho, UConn and Florida. Granted, Tennessee’s offense has been horrible most of the season. But we’re forgetting that Missouri gave up 43 points to Missouri State, 35 to Purdue, 40 to Kentucky and 53 to Georgia.
John Kelly should be able to run the ball on this sometimes-atrocious Missouri defense. And I expect Tennessee to do everything it can to shorten the game and control tempo. The closer the line gets to 2 TDs, the more I see value on the Vols here.
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