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2018 Liberty Bowl: Mizzou vs OSU Gambling Odds and Pick

Missouri Tigers (8-4) @ Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-6)

  • Where: Liberty Bowl . Memphis, TN
  • When: December 27, 2018 3:45 pm EST
  • Spread: Missouri (-9) vs Oklahoma State (+9)
  • Moneyline: Mizzou (-350) vs OSU (+275)
  • Over / Under: 74

Postseason FBS games are carefully scheduled to prevent regular-season rematches, with the goal of matching teams of contrasting styles. When a representative from a high-scoring league like the Big 12 is paired with the SEC – known for stubborn defense and physical intimidation – the clash of identities can create magic in a bowl contest.

There are exceptions to every rule, however.

Missouri and Oklahoma State’s meeting in Memphis at the Liberty Bowl is not going to feel a lot like an OOC game. The December 31st event could play out more like a conference rivalry, and ironically so, since Mizzou was once in the “Big Eight” next to the schools from Norman and Stillwater.

The Liberty Bowl could look less like the Revolutionary War and more like a drag race.

Missouri is a dynamo on offense, led by celebrated senior QB Drew Lock. Unlike a lot of NFL-caliber athletes whose team is playing before New Year’s Day, Lock will be on hand when the Tigers meet the Cowboys. Oklahoma State may be the most frustrating program in America for college bowl gamblers to wager on, as Mike Gundy’s 2018 squad is 6-6 straight-up and 6-6 against the spread. But when OSU has the football? The explosive attack from Stillwater is anything but mediocre.

Will either defense manage a few stops on New Year’s Eve? Las Vegas thinks it will be the 8-4 program from the SEC East. Mizzou is a (-9) point spread favorite in a contest with a healthy (74) point total.

Tiger Test

 

The last time the Missouri Tigers were legitimately tested on the gridiron was on November 10th, when Vanderbilt visited Faurot Field in Columbia. Lock had the luxury of handing off to tailbacks Damarea Crockett and Larry Rountree III, who rushed for a combined 214 yards. But the senior was intercepted twice while passing for well under 3 bills, a bad statistical performance in Mizzou’s 4-wides-and-go system. The Tigers still prevailed 33-28 thanks largely to a defense that pressured and sacked Kyle Shurmur.

Not every SEC opponent was able to challenge the Black & Gold like the Commodores did. In the last 4 weeks of the season, Mizzou thrashed Florida, Tennessee and Arkansas by lopsided scores.

Lock hasn’t had the most prolific season from a pure numbers standpoint, but he’s the Tigers’ talisman and emotional leader, and has dangerous targets at WR like Emanuel Hall and Johnathon Johnson. Senior Terez Hall has been a force at LB.

But the team’s losses in 2018 show how far the improving program still has to go to reach the pinnacle of the Power-5. A scrum with Alabama was competitive for only 1 quarter, and mid-season brought a miserable loss to South Carolina.

The Mizzou defense has such a low floor that Missouri State of the FCS was able to lead the Tigers 21-20 in the season opener.

Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Play Defense

As for Oklahoma State’s defense, will there ever be a truly outstanding, consistent D in Stillwater? Short answer: Nope. The hype this August was the same as ever. “Look out now,” said Cowboy partisans. “We always have a great offense, but this year there’ll be a defense too!” But whether it’s Gundy’s breathless offense giving the defense no time to rest, or a recruiting base slanted toward the offensive side (as many are in the YouTube era), or a plain old lack of organizational focus, OSU remains a team trying to win games 55-31 instead of 28-14.

Led by QB Taylor Cornelius and sophomore WR Tylan Wallace, the offense can still keep pace with the best in the college game. A powerful OL puts the unit in 2nd down and short often, and a 38-35 October win over Texas showed what the Cowboys are still capable of. Wallace had an absolutely phenomenal outing against the Longhorns, catching 10 passes for 200+ yards and 12 points.

However, OSU failed to stop even the most average Big 12 offenses en route to losing 5 of its final 7 contests. A 48-47 loss to Oklahoma in the annual “Bedlam” rivalry was hard to swallow, but the 35-31 loss to Baylor better illustrates the chronic issues. The ground game was healthy against the Bears, but Cornelius was inaccurate too often, and the defense gave up 244 rushing yards.

Picking the 2018 Liberty Bowl: Moneyline and ATS

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It’s easy to imagine this bowl as an emotional shoot-out that comes down to Lock’s ability to lead the 2-minute drill for Mizzou. He’s had to mount comebacks against less-talented teams in 2018, such as Purdue.

But I’m thinking that the point spread is actually too tight, since this is a match-up of a gridiron program on the way up against a Big 12 squad that might be starting to see diminishing returns under its fiery head coach. If Mike Gundy is trying to prove that “offense wins championships,” he’s running out of years in which to do so.

OSU could play a good game and cover, or play a decent game and lose by 10 points. It’s also possible that the Cowboys will look like garbage, as they have at times over the 2-5 stretch that includes a 31-12 loss to Kansas State.

If Oklahoma State has a bad day, Mizzou can win by 3 touchdowns or more.

It’s not a lock – even for Mr. Lock – but it’s a percentage pick. Take Missouri to cover (-9) in Memphis.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.


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