Missouri’s chances of reaching the BCS National Championship Game were likely dashed with their double-overtime loss to South Carolina four weeks ago. However, they still control their own destiny on the road to the SEC Title Game.
On Saturday, the Tigers face another obstacle as they try to finish atop the East Division. They are set to visit No.24 Ole Miss.
For No.8 Missouri, the contest marks the return of their starting quarterback. James Franklin has missed the past four games because of an injury to his right shoulder. Backup Maty Mauk filled in admirably in his place, throwing for 951 yards, 10 touchdown passes and just two interceptions. Franklin, though, went undefeated under center, including a win against No.7 Georgia. He completed 14 touchdown passes and three interceptions, and his 67.7 completion percentage dwarfed Mauk’s 51.7.
"He looks really good. He looks just like he left off before the injury," head coach Gary Pinkel said. "He's excited about being back, and the team is excited about getting him back too. I obviously want him to do really well. He had some adversity and battled through it and we are excited to have him in."
Despite the instability at the quarterback, Missouri has maintained one of the best offenses in the country. They rank 12th in college football, scoring 41.3 points per game. They are led by their rushing attack, which features three running backs that have put together impressive seasons. Henry Josey leads the team in carries with 125 for 760 yards and 10 scores. Russell Hansbrough is behind him with 544 yards on the ground, but Marcus Murphy has been almost as good as both of them. The junior has 485 rushing yards, but leads the club with 7.7 yards per carry.
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Mississippi will certainly have their hands full, but they’re playing very well, finding their way back into the Top 25 this week. The Rebels were sitting at .500, following consecutive losses to Alabama, Auburn and Texas A&M, all of whom rank in the Top 10 of the AP poll. Since then, the team has won four in a row, including a 30-point victory over Troy last week. With a few more wins under their belt, Ole Miss is ready to face a ranked opponent, once again.
"With the schedule we have played, looking back on it, we have had our share of tests, and this will be another one Saturday night," head coach Hugh Freeze told the school's website.
The Tigers are a 2.5-point favorite at most Las Vegas sportsbooks, and if this season is any indication, they’ll not only win, but cover the betting line. The Tigers are 8-1-1 against the spread in 2013. Mississippi is 6-4 against the spread, including 4-2 at home.
Betting Odds: Missouri -2.5, 57
Prediction: Missouri 38, Mississippi 24