Citrus Bowl: Missouri vs. Minnesota Odds, Preview & Free Picks

Kevin Stott

Wednesday, December 17, 2014 5:55 PM GMT

Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014 5:55 PM GMT

The Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando is the aptly-named site for the Citrus Bowl, a matchup between the SEC’s Missouri and the Big Ten’s Minnesota in a game where the Over looks like a good bet.

Odds Overview
#16 Missouri vs Minnesota: (Missouri -5, 48, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook), Thursday, January 1, 18:00 (ABC, 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT): All is quiet on New Year’s Day until you turn on the TV when you awake and then it’s wall-to-wall football and noise to start out 2015 and bring in the new year like you ushered out the last one...watching and betting on football. Some esteemed holiday traditions never change, eh? There’s nothing like a healthy mix of gastric juices and eggnog to let you know you’re really alive brother. This third of five New Year’s Day bowl game sees SEC Eastern Division champions Missouri (10-3 SU, 8-5 ATS) facing Midwest neighbors and Big Ten representatives Minnesota (8-4 SU, 8-4 ATS) in the Citrus Bowl in the aptly-named Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando.

Oddsmakers have installed Missouri as 5-point Favorites (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) in this matchup with Mizzou priced at -210 on the Money Line (Winner) marketplace with Underdogs Minnesota at +175. The Total Points is set at 48 (SuperBook) while the Missouri Team Total Points is at 26½ with the Minnesota Team Total Points is 21½ (Ladbrokes). These two Midwest neighbors have surprisingly never played before so we can only blame one thing and the only thing which divides the two—the state of Iowa.


Missouri Tigers
#16 (AP) Missouri (18-8 ATS L2 years) won the SEC’s Eastern Division for the second straight season but were defeated by the nation’s top-ranked team, Alabama, 42-13 in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta last weekend. Head coach Gary Pinkel’s (88-77-3 ATS) Tigers are led by hot-and-cold QB Maty Mauk (209 completions, 2,551 yards, 23 TDs) but surprisingly, Missouri is more effective on offense Rushing (62nd, 165.6 ypg) than they are Passing (95th, 196.2 ypg), thanks to RBs Russell Hansbrough (199 rushes, 970 yards, 9 TDs) and Marcus Murphy (163 rushes, 767  yards, 4 TDs), who will both be very glad they’re not running into the teeth of the Crimson Tide defense on New Year’s Day. Mauk’s favorite targets are WR Bud Sasser (70 receptions, 935 yards, 10 TDs, 13.4 ypc) and WR Jimmie Hunt (40 receptions, 608 yards, 7 TDs, 17.5 ypc) but Missouri ranks just 64th in the country in average Points Per Game (29.3) so it’s obvious that the Tigers defense (26th, 21.4 ppg) is the strength of this team.

Missouri (6-1 L7 SU) allowed its most points of the season (31) to Indiana at Home in Columbia in a shocking 31-27 loss in Week 4, but back-to-back SEC divisional titles and wins against South Carolina, Florida, Texas A&M, Tennessee and Arkansas show something and even a loss to Alabama in the SEC title game can only make a team better as banging heads with the Crimson Tide is sort of  like sharpening one’s knife. The Tigers do have a nice +8 TO margin but doing their relatively new conference proud will be in the front of Mizzou’s minds throughout this contest.

Injury-wise, OL Brad McNulty (knee) is listed as Probable, TE Kendall Blanton (elbow) as Questionable while S Cortland Browning (foot) has been ruled Out for the Tigers for this Citrus Bowl which will sort of be played in the hallowed shadows of Disney Land.


Minnesota Golden Gophers
Minnesota (4-1 ATS L5) has gotten its football program back to respectability and head coach Jerry Kill (29-18 ATS) is the huge reason why the Golden Gophers and their fans can hold their heads high these days. Minnesota is a rush first, pass second type of team and its national rankings—124th Passing, 136.4 ypg; 27th Rushing, 224.6 ypg—reveal much. If you can get up on the Golden Gophers, they don’t have a strong enough passing attack to make up points that quickly. But Minnesota can run the ball, plays solid defense (34th, 23.4 ppg) and is tied for 11th in TO Margin (+11), so, “getting up” on the Golden Gophers is much easier said and typed on a keyboard than done.

Leading the offense for Minnesota (6-3 SU L9) is star RB David Cobb (294 rushes, 1,548 yards, 13 TDs) while QB Mitch Leidner (101 completions, 1,540 yards, 10 TDs) serves several roles including handing the pigskin to Cobb, rushing it himself (117 rushes, 462 yards, 10 TDs) and passing when the time is right. WR Maxx Williams (29 receptions, 471 yards, 7 TDs) is the main receiving target for Minnesota who should have WR Drew Wolitarsky (ankle, Probable) as well as DB Antonio Johnson (knee, Probable) back for this game while OL Brian Bobek (undisclosed), TE Brandon Lingen (undisclosed) and DB Daletavious McGhee (undisclosed) are all listed as Questionable.


Best Betting Approaches and Trends
With these schools unfamiliar with the cut of each other’s jib, the only really significant trend which applies here in my mind the one where the SEC is 5-1 SU and ATS against the Big Ten in the Citrus Bowl. Missouri (4-1 ATS L5) and Minnesota both have impressive ATS records (8-5 and 8-4 respectively) and have both played strong schedules, but the Golden Gophers have lost 6 straight Bowl games with their last win coming back in 2004 against Alabama in the Music Bowl. Missouri is 8-2 SU L10 against the Big Ten and 6-4 ATS in those games and the Tigers are 2-0 SU and ATS in their L2 Bowl games. As far as Totals trends, there’s not much to work with but the Over is 4-2 in Minnesota’s L6 games and the L3 Missouri Bowl games have all gone Over the posted Total.

With Minnesota likely running the ball so much here and Missouri’s reliable defense, taking the Over for your college football picks here seems like a bit of a risk but the feeling is that both teams will be well-rested, have nothing to lose in their last game of the season—and for some players, career—and both offensive stars Mauk and Cobb should have big games in the spotlight. And with the last 6 Minnesota games all going over a theoretical posted Total of 48—the number here—with totals of 58, 52, 55, 65, 52 and 77 points, thoughts of around a Missouri 31-21 win seem about right for this one. The Golden Gophers should be able to get theirs here, but Missouri will defend the honor of the SEC and with the more balanced offensive attack, trudge out a double-digit win and with it, the sacred cover.

Free College Football Picks: Over 48, Missouri -5  at 5Dimes

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