Vegas NCAAF Betting Preview & Game Odds: Missouri vs Tennessee

One team will punch its ticket to a bowl game and one team will have to try again next week as the Missouri Tigers face the Tennessee Volunteers in an SEC East battle of 5-5 teams. The game will kick off at 7:30 EST on Saturday, November 23 at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Missouri. Fans can watch the game on the SEC Network.

Oddsmakers view the Tigers as 4-point favorites at home. There is also an over/under of 45.5 points. Click here for a full list of this week’s college football betting odds.

Missouri vs Tennessee Vegas Preview & Game Predictions

Is it possible that we’re seeing the turnaround of the Volunteers under Jeremy Pruitt in front of our very eyes? Tennessee started the season 1-4, including puzzling losses to Georgia State and BYU. However, the Vols have now won three in a row to get themselves to 5-5, giving them two chances to become bowl eligible. In fairness, those wins have come against a 4-7 South Carolina team, UAB, and a 5-5 Kentucky team that’s quite limited offensively. Of course, it doesn’t matter how Pruitt has done it. All that matters is that with a win over Missouri or a win next week against in-state rival Vanderbilt, the Volunteers will be bowling for the first time since 2016.

On the other side of the spectrum, we appear to be watching the complete and utter collapse of Missouri in front of our eyes. The Tigers bounced back from a surprising loss to Wyoming in their season opener with five consecutive wins. However, Mizzou has not won a game since, losing to Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Georgia, and Florida to fall to 5-5 overall and just 2-4 inside the SEC. The good news for the Tigers is that they only need one win and have a home date with Tennessee and a road game against lowly Arkansas to end the season to get it. Given that schedule, it’d be surprising to see Missouri miss out on a bowl game. However, while the schedule looks favorable on paper, the Tigers have to get the job done on the field.

Working in Missouri’s favor is the fact that they’ve won five of their seven head-to-head meetings with Tennessee since joining the SEC. The Tigers have actually won by identical scores of 50-17 over the Vols in each of the last two seasons. 

Free NCAAF Betting Prediction: Tennessee +4

Missouri being favored in this game feels like the powers that be are setting a trap. After all, they’ve lost four in a row while Tennessee is surging and playing with a lot of confidence. If it’s indeed a trap, then count me as a victim. Given the different directions that these teams are going, I can’t justify taking Missouri as a favorite, so I’ll roll the dice with the Volunteers.

One good reason to stay away from Missouri in this game is that the Tigers have been a disaster offensively over the last month. They’ve scored a total of 27 points over their last four games. To be fair, playing both Florida and Georgia will help explain a limited offensive output. But the Tigers managed just seven points against Kentucky and 14 points against a 2-8 Vanderbilt team.

The arrival of Clemson grad transfer Kelly Bryant at quarterback hasn’t exactly worked out the way the Tigers hoped it would. He was fine during the first part of the season, but everything has come apart for him lately. It’s worth noting that Bryant missed the Georgia game due to injury and is still somewhat limited by a hamstring issue. Nevertheless, his passing totals and completion percentage have plummeted over the last month, holding back the rest of the Missouri offense, which isn’t giving him much support.

Meanwhile, the Tennessee defense has continued to come on strong late in the season. Again, the list of teams Tennessee has beaten in recent weeks isn’t overly impressive. However, UT’s front-7 has done a great job of stopping the run during their turnaround. Last week was a little bit of an exception because Kentucky did nothing but run the ball and ultimately amassed over 300 yards. However, The Vols did keep a shut out over the final three quarters.

Much like Kentucky in Tennessee’s last game, I’m not sure Missouri will have an answer if the UT defense can contain Mizzou’s rushing attack. Bryant is less of a threat to take off and run since he’s still nursing the hamstring issue. He also doesn’t have much prowess as a pocket passer, nor do the Tigers have elite wide receivers who are likely to create explosive plays.

On the other side of the ball, the Volunteers are mixing and matching at quarterback and finding some success. Freshman Brian Maurer is getting his feet wet as the starter while junior Jarrett Guarantano is coming off the bench. Guarantano has actually played some of his best football coming off the bench, throwing two touchdown passes to beat Kentucky in UT’s last game. The Vols aren’t exactly explosive offensively, but they’ve been effective enough over the last month to win games.

All things considered, I expect this to be a close, low-scoring game. Both teams have shortcomings on offense and both teams are good enough defensively to take advantage of that. Of course, a low-scoring game usually favors the underdog since the onus is on the favorite to win and cover. That makes me feel comfortable taking the Volunteers and the points in this game.

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