It may very well be that the wrong team is favored when the underdog and 25th ranked Missouri Tigers visit the Kentucky Wildcats in Lexington on Saturday night.
The ranked underdog seems to be offering good value Saturday night in SEC play when the 25th ranked and undefeated Missouri Tigers (3-0, 0-3 ATS) open up their conference season by paying a visit to the Kentucky Wildcats (2-1, 1-2 ATS) at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, KY at 7:30 ET in a game televised nationally on SEC Network.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Missouri as a modest road underdog for this contest with the current line at +3 with odds of -114.
Kentucky Already 1-1 Inside the SEC
Unlike Missouri, Kentucky has already played two conference games and the Wildcats are 1-1 inside the SEC, first going on the road and upsetting South Carolina 26-22 as a seven-point underdog and then returning home last week and losing to Florida 14-9 as 3½-point dogs. Those two conference affairs followed up a non-covering 40-33 season-opening win vs. UL Lafayette, leaving Kentucky at 1-2 ATS despite being 2-1 straight up.
Nationally ranked Missouri is 3-0 to start the year, but do not mention that to the supporters of the Tigers as they have not been good college football picks in those three unimpressive wins going 0-3 ATS! Missouri failed to cover vs. an FCS team in a 34-3 win over SE Missouri State and the ATS results have not been any better in two FBS wins, first 27-20 on the road at Arkansas State and then 9-6 at home vs. Connecticut last week in an especially ugly game.
Unable to Keep Momentum
Kentucky was riding high at 2-0 and was coming off of the upset at Columbia, but the Wildcats were unable to build on that momentum as they failed to score a touchdown vs. Florida in the loss last week while amassing a mere 241 total yards. And besides, the win at South Carolina may not have been as impressive as was first believed given how bad the Gamecocks have looked, especially in an uncompetitive loss vs. Georgia last week.
That has us questioning Kentucky being favored vs. a ranked team here, no matter how underwhelming Missouri has been in its victories. After all, we are talking about a Wildcats’ team here that has lost 23 of its last 26 SEC games, and has a quarterback in Patrick Towles that completed just 8-of-24 passes for 126 yards with two interceptions vs. the Gators last week.
We do not expect a sudden rejuvenation for Towles or the entire Kentucky offense for that matter vs. a stout Missouri defense that has yet to allow more than 233 total yards in any game this season, with the Tigers ranking fourth in the entire country in total defense allowing 217.0 yards per game and second in overall yards per play allowed at just 3.3.
Road Warriors in the SEC
As you would expect, suspect offense by Missouri too has been the reason for the unimpressive scores, especially with quarterback Maty Mauk averaging 5.9 yards per pass and the running game producing just 3.2 yards per carry. However, the Tigers have been at their best on the SEC road in recent years, currently riding an eight-game winning streak both straight up and ATS in conference road games. In fact, Missouri is 14-3 ATS its last 17 road games overall.
To their credit, the Tigers have found ways to win ugly carried by one of the premier defenses in the land, and they should be fine here as they will not need to score a boatload of points given that the defense should have no problems with the Kentucky offense, and since Missouri is an underdog here, anther ugly win automatically means its first ATS cover of the year.
The Tigers held Kentucky to 258 yards back at home in a 20-10 win last season and Missouri is a perfect 3-0 straight up vs. the Wildcats since joining the SEC in 2012 while winning by an aggregate score of 101-37.
Not Used to Being Conference Favorites
Finally, while the Kentucky football program has taken positive strides in recent years, being favored in SEC play is mostly uncharted waters for the Wildcats. In fact, they have been conference favorites just once since 2010, and they failed to cover the point spread on that occasion last year here at home vs. Vanderbilt. If you do not mind going back a ways, Kentucky is 2-5 ATS the last seven times that it has been cast as a conference favorite.
Expect history to repeat here, both the road success of Missouri and the lack of success for Kentucky as a favorite, as the Tigers pull the mild outright upset in Lexington on Saturday.
College Football Pick: Missouri +3 (-114)