You know it’s time to truly start counting down the days till college football when Vegas starts predicting the next season’s outcome. (And in case you want to know, we’re at 76 days until kickoff.)
For the Missouri Tigers, when they kickoff their 2014 season at home against South Dakota State, they’ll be doing so with long odds to win the SEC.
This week, the notorious Las Vegas Sportsbook released its projected win totals in 2014 for every team in the Southeastern Conference and surprise! Alabama is at the top of the list.
But Mizzou got a little bit more love from the odds-makers than it did in the 2013 preseason, and for good reason: the Tigers 12-2 overall record was good enough for an SEC East Division championship, a Cotton Bowl win and a top ten overall finish in the national rankings.
That impressed Vegas enough to put MU in pretty good company amongst the best over/unders in the league. The Tigers are projected by the sportsbook to follow up their 2013 success with 8 wins and a 6th place overall finish in the conference and third in the division.
Here’s how the whole conference will play out according to the odds:
South Carolina: 9.5
Ole Miss: 7.5
Mississippi State: 7
Texas A&M: 7
Mizzou’s placement in these projections certainly isn’t all bad news bears. The program definitely landed on everyone’s radar after last season’s campaign. But these odds aren’t generous enough in my book. The team earned a better spot on the list.
Last season for Mizzou stunned just about everybody, including yours truly– I had them going 4-8; I underestimated a few of its best players and thought the SEC was just completely over their heads. The outlook for the Tigers in 2013 according to Vegas wasn’t pretty either. They were projected to get just 5 wins and were placed at 50-t0-1 odds to win the SEC.
So, on one hand, it makes sense that the over/under is below last year’s exceptional 12 wins. Sure, Missouri wasn’t supposed to be that good and those who make the bets must consider that some of that was flukey “anything can happen in college football” wizardry.
But the team this season– even after losing talent– is better than 8 wins and certainly better than sixth in the conference. For one, I think Florida (remember how awful it was last year?), LSU and Georgia are all ranked too high here by Vegas. As are Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
Next, shear talent on Mizzou’s roster is still there. Quarterback Maty Mauk is working his way on to several people’s Heisman watch-list, and he was recently recognized as the best passer in the SEC. He’s proven that, along with those passer strengths, he’s a confident leader and he’ll make the young receivers on the team better.
In front of Mauk is an offensive line that has a ton of experience and in the backfield is a seriously solid running game, bolstered by Marcus Murphy who has matured into one of the better backs in the conference.
All in all, the team’s offense is going to be just as dangerous as last season, even without star-studded receivers.
The defense has question marks, replacing Micahel Sam and Kony Ealy means that the team won’t be nearly as potent in the pass rush as it was last season and perhaps the team’s linebacker core is a little too fresh for my taste, but I still think they have recruited well and will be able to compete.
Honestly, this team is going to be good enough to contend for the East division title again. The Tigers have the talent– and the confidence, thanks to 2013’s success– and their schedule isn’t as brutal as it was last season.
While South Carolina may be everyone’s darling in the East, as they should be, don’t be surprised if Mizzou makes a push.
On predicting win totals, I think the magic number is 9 or 10. That’s far more fair than the line Vegas is giving us. I’ll just say this; if I were a betting man, I’d follow this advice: bet the over.