Missouri Tigers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini Preview

Missouri Tigers (8-5 last season) -4 , o/u 57 vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (2-10), 3:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPN2
by Zman of Predictem.com

A favorite to win the Big 12’s North Division takes on a border rival from the conference next door when the Missouri Tigers hook up with the Fighting Illini of Illinois Saturday afternoon on a neutral field at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

Missouri went 8-5 last year, but lost four of its last five, including the Sun Bowl in throw-away fashion to Oregon State.

Illinois lost its last seven games in a row last season to finish at 2-10.

The Tigers return 13 starters from a season ago, eight on an offense that ranked eighth in all of 1-A football but just five on a defense that, while ranking 39th last year, had trouble stopping the run. So odds are that this team will play a lot of high-scoring games this season.

The Illini return 18 starters, nine on each side of the ball. The defense ranked 33rd last season, and Illinois ranked second in the Big 10 in rushing. And they return four starters on the offensive line. But the Illini passing game ranked dead last out of 119 1-A teams.

Mizzou owns a great set of skill players on offense, led by junior QB Chase Daniels (three school records last season, 13 career starts), RB Tony Temple and possibly the best set of receivers in the Big 12.

The story surrounding Illinois this year is the promise of a couple of very good recruiting classes. The Illini have won four games in two seasons under head coach Ron Zook, so now is the time for that talent to start improving the situation in the win/loss columns.

These two teams haven’t met since the Tigers beat Illinois 22-15 back in August of 2003, also in St. Louis.

Missouri went 5-7 against the spread last season, and 4-5 ATS as favorites.

On the other hand, the Illini went 5-6 vs. the numbers last season but 5-1 ATS as underdogs.

Tigers RB Temple, who rushed for over 1,000 yards last season, got hurt in practice about three weeks ago. He’s listed as anywhere from out indefinitely to probable, for what that’s worth.

Mizzou opened up, at most sportsbooks, as a four-point favorite, with a total of around 54. The spread has inched up to 4 at many places, and the total has increased at least a couple of points.

The Predictem.com Pick: Passing.