The Missouri Tigers need a victory last Saturday to become bowl-eligible this season. They went into the Battle Line Rivalry hosting Arkansas with a 5-6 record. That showdown offered them the opportunity to avenge a 34-17 loss in Fayetteville last season to the Razorbacks as a 14.5-point underdog. The Tigers went into the game having ended a two-game losing streak in a 45-14 victory at home against New Mexico State as a 29-point favorite the prior week. Missouri had covered the point spread in 4 straight games after losing two of their last three games.
In identifying the Tigers as our SEC Underdog of the Year in that game, we considered them better than their 5-6 record suggested. They have won only one time in their five games that got decided by one scoring possession. They were getting this revenge game at home where they were 4-2 this season with a net differential of 11.9 points. At home, they outgain their opponents by 62.5 net yards per game by holding their opponents to 324.7 yards per game and 19.3 points per game. The Tigers had covered the point spread in five of their last seven games at home against teams with a winning road record, and they have covered the point spread in six of their last eight games at home when the oddsmakers installed them as an underdog. They had covered the point spread in six of their last nine games in November.
Our faith was rewarded with a 29-27 upset victory by Missouri with the oddsmakers installing them as a 3.5-point underdog in most locations. They went into the locker room trailing by a 21-20 score before scoring an early touchdown in the second half. The Tigers went for the two-point conversion to take a 28-21 lead yet failed to convert. A later field goal in the quarter gave Mizzou a 29-21 lead.
Arkansas nailed a 46-yard field goal near the end of the third quarter to narrow the lead to five points. In a critical sequence early in the fourth quarter, Missouri stopped the Razorbacks on the 3-yard line as they settled for a short 20-yard field goal at the 12:40 minute mark of the fourth quarter. Arkansas would not score again as the Tigers pulled out the victory.
Brady Cook completed 16 of 26 passes for 242 yards in the winning effort. He tossed a touchdown pass and did not throw an interception. Cook ran the ball another 18 times for 138 yards with a rushing touchdown. The Tigers dominated the yardage battle by a 468-325 margin.
With their six victories, Missouri will present bettors with an interesting team to consider. They have wins against South Carolina and the Razorbacks who will be playing in bowl games. They have narrow losses of seven points or less against Florida, Kentucky, Auburn (in overtime), and, most impressively, a 4-point loss to Georgia. Despite playing in the SEC, they outgained their opponents by 33.9 net yards per game. The Tigers' defense ranks 28th in the nation by allowing only 337.1 yards per game.
ESPN's bowl forecast projects Missouri into two intriguing albeit second-tier bowl games. One prediction has the Tigers playing Syracuse in the Birmingham Bowl against an Orange team that started the season undefeated before fading in the ACC late in the year. Another possible matchup would likely see them as an underdog against Oklahoma State in a battle of former Big 12 rivals in the Texas Bowl.
Good luck - TDG.