Missouri Tigers Odds to Win the 2015 College Football National Championship
by Alan Matthews - 8/7/2014
When Missouri and Texas A&M each left the Big 12 for the SEC before the 2012 season, the Tigers and Aggies were supposed to struggle. No one expected A&M to have a transcendent player in Johnny Manziel and the Aggies didn't struggle. As expected, however, Missouri was overmatched while going 5-7 overall that first season. It was the school's worst campaign since 2002 and put Coach Gary Pinkel on the hot seat. After all, his school had gone from 10 wins in 2010 to eight in '11 to those five the following year.
Pinkel's seat is no longer hot as Missouri shockingly won the SEC East Division in 2013, with its only loss in double overtime against South Carolina in a game that Mizzou blew in the fourth quarter by allowing 17 unanswered points. The Tigers' run to the SEC title game was nearly as big of a miracle as Auburn's was in the West. Missouri might well have played Florida State for the national title, but it was run over by Auburn 59-42 for the SEC title. It was by far the most points allowed all season for Missouri. Still, a Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma State capped just the second 12-win season in school history.
Once again this season, the East Division looks far weaker than the West so Missouri might be able to repeat. Should Missouri really be in the East Division? Obviously not if you go by geography, but it is what it is. And which team from the West can you really swap out for a move East?
Missouri Odds to Win the 2015 National Championship Story Lines
According to Phil Steele's excellent returning starters list, Missouri has the fewest in the SEC with just nine. The big losses on offense are quarterback James Franklin, excellent running back Henry Josey (1,166 yards and 16 touchdowns) and receivers L'Damian Washington (893 yards, 10 TDs) and Dorial Green-Beckham (883 yards, 12 TDs). The school expected to lose the former three, but Green-Beckham, the former No. 1 recruit in the nation, couldn't stay out of trouble and was booted. He's now redshirting at Oklahoma.
The offense is still in good shape under center with Maty Mauk, as he filled in very well for Franklin when Franklin was injured in 2013. Mauk was part of the SEC All-Freshman team, starting four games and playing in 13. He threw for 1,071 yards and 11 touchdowns (a school-record-tying five vs. Kentucky) against just two picks. He also ran for 229 yards and a score. Junior Russell Hansbrough (685 yards) and senior Marcus Murphy (601 yards) will share carries in replacing Josey. Bud Sasser (26 receptions for 361 yards) and Jimmie Hunt (22 for 253) are the two most experienced receivers returning. Two starters on the line must be replaced.
On defense, the Tigers lost a lot, including co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam (heard of him?), fellow stud pass-rusher Kony Ealy (who will be a much better pro than Sam), linebackers Andrew Wilson and Donovan Bonner, and top cornerbacks E.J. Gaines and Randy Ponder. The Tigers believe that Markus Golden will be the next Sam/Ealy, and sophomore cornerback Aarion Penton looks like a All-SEC player eventually after a good freshman season.
As for the schedule, there is no line yet on Missouri's opener at home on Aug. 30 against South Dakota State. Don't sleep on the Jackrabbits there, seriously. They are a good I-AA team, or whatever they call it these days. The Tigers have a weak non-conference schedule and it will be an upset if they aren't 4-0 entering the SEC. After SDSU, Missouri goes to Toledo, which could be a trap game (Rockets were only down eight in the fourth quarter in Columbia last year), hosts Central Florida (very good last year but rebuilding a bit) and Indiana.
If Mizzou is to be taken seriously in the SEC this year, it has to play well in the conference opener at East favorite South Carolina. Think Pinkel will show film of last season's collapse as motivation? That starts a tough three-game stretch with Georgia visiting Columbia on Oct. 11 and then Mizzou going to what should be an improved Florida team Oct. 18. The Tigers handled UGA and UF easily a year ago. Missouri doesn't don't have to play Alabama, Auburn or LSU from the West, instead getting Texas A&M (replacing Manziel) and Arkansas (winless in conference in 2013). That's about as good a schedule as an East Division team can hope for.
Missouri 2015 National Championship Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes, the Tigers are +6700 to win the national title, +3800 to win the SEC Championship Game and +900 to take the SEC East. They don't have odds yet to make the College Football Playoff. You can bet "over/under" 9.5 wins for Mizzou (under a -1050 favorite), 9 wins (under -800 favorite), 8.5 wins (under -280 favorite), 8 wins (under -170 favorite) and 7.5 wins (over -130 favorite. Mauk is +5000 to win the Heisman. Missouri was a stellar 11-2-1 against the spread last season (6-1-1 at home) and 8-6 O/U (3-5 at home).
Missouri Odds to Win the 2015 National Championship Predictions
We certainly will know after that Florida game whether Missouri has a shot to repeat as East Division champ. I don't see it happening. This team overachieved last year (just like Auburn) and will take a moderate step back. Missouri looks like a fourth-place team in the East. I believe it finishes 7-5, losing all four SEC road games and home to Georgia, perhaps putting Pinkel back on a warm seat.
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