Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-1 SU, 4-0 ATS) vs. Missouri Tigers (4-0 SU, 2-1 ATS), 9:00 p.m. EST, Thursday, October 8, 2009, Memorial Stadium, Columbia, Mo. TV: ESPN
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Nebraska -3/Missouri +3
A pair of Big 12 rivals open up conference play with a Thursday night ESPN battle, as the Nebraska Cornhuskers face the Missouri Tigers. The Tigers come into the game with a perfect 4-0 record, while the Cornhuskers are a last minute touchdown pass away from being 4-0.
With Nebraska leading 15-10 at Virginia Tech, Hokies quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw an 11-yard touchdown pass with 21 seconds left to win the game. If not for that touchdown pass, Nebraska would be undefeated. Instead, the Huskers are 3-1 with blowout home wins over Florida Atlantic, Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette.
Missouri hasn’t played terrific competition, either. The Tigers’ toughest game was their first, a 37-9 win at Illinois, a team that is not looking very good this season. Since then, the Tigers have wins over Bowling Green, Furman and Nevada. The win over Bowling Green was by a touchdown, 27-20, and the win at Nevada was by 10, 31-21.
Based on the team’s performances thus far, Nebraska has had the more impressive season. But Missouri blew out Nebraska last season, 52-17. It’s difficult, though, to use last year’s game to assess this year’s matchup when both teams had different quarterbacks. Missouri QB Chase Daniel was a Heisman candidate and Nebraska QB Joe Ganz was also one of the best QB’s in the nation. Missouri also had standout wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who is now in the NFL.
This season, Nebraska is led by quarterback Zac Lee, who has thrown for 927, seven touchdowns and three interceptions in four games. But the Huskers’ success thus far can be attributed more to running back Roy Helu, who has rushed for 464 yards and five touchdowns and is averaging over six yards per carry.
Missouri, meanwhile, has been just as successful through the air thus far as it was last year. Blaine Gabbert as taken over the reins as the Tigers quarterback and has been virtually flawless. He has thrown for 1,161 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. The two Missouri wideouts that will do the most damage are Danario Alexander and Jared Perry. The two of them have combined for 54 catches, 785 yards and nine touchdowns.
It’s tough to gauge how the Nebraska defense will do this season against a spread offense with a strong passing attack like Missouri because the Huskers haven’t yet gone against one. Last season, they lost to Missouri, Texas Tech and Oklahoma, and won a shootout against Kansas. They gave up at least 35 points to each of those four teams. Missouri has put up at least 27 points in each of its four games this season, so it’s safe to assume the Tigers will at the very minimum score in the 20’s against Nebraska.
Although the Huskers haven’t faced an offense like Missouri yet this season, they’ve done a nice job against the pass in their four games. They’ve given up just 169.8 pass yards per game and one passing touchdown.
Missouri has given up 133.8 rush yards per game and five rushing touchdowns. They’ve been allowing 3.7 yards per carry.,
In Nebraska’s loss to Virginia Tech, Lee was just 11-for-30 passing with two interceptions. But Helu ran for 169 yards to control the game. As long as Helu can run the ball effectively, the Huskers always have a chance to win. Lee was miserable, but the run game was working and the Huskers defense played well enough that they had a chance to win the game at the end.
Against Illinois, Gabbert threw for 319 yards and three touchdowns. Against Nevada, Gabbert threw for 414 yards and three touchdowns. It’s tough to criticize what the new Missouri quarterback has done so far.
Nebraska is 4-0 ATS this season and 4-1 ATS in its last five road games. Missouri is 17-3 in its last 20 home games. Missouri has gone under in all three of its games this season against FBS opponents.
Ryno’s Pick: Going by the trends, the pick would be Nebraska and the under. But the line is swayed towards Nebraska because of a 4-0 ATS record. The fact is that Missouri is at home, where it blew Nebraska out last season. Expecting the Huskers to turn that around and win this one on the road is tough. Missouri is a strong home team, having won 17 of its last 20 there. This is a big game, with both teams ranked in the top 25. The Tigers will be hyped up and ready to go. Expect both teams to really move the ball on offense. The over is a good play, but Missouri as a home underdog is a better play. Take Missouri +3.