When I wrote up my usual openings odds piece for this game back at the beginning of the month, Ohio State was nearly a touchdown favorite in its Cotton Bowl matchup against Missouri. Fast forward a few weeks, and the Buckeyes have seen over a dozen players enter the transfer portal — including their starting quarterback, among others — in addition to a handful of star players still mulling over NFL Draft declarations.
As a result, the line has unsurprisingly swayed in favor of the Tigers, who are now only a three-point underdog in Arlington, Texas on Dec. 29. The movement for this spread has been pretty crazy to watch, with Ohio State falling to a 2.5-point dogs at one point before jumping back up to three-point favorites over the course of this week.
All lines courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.
Spread: Ohio State -3 | O/U: 49
Offensively, things have obvious changed for Ohio State with Kyle McCord having transferred to Syracuse following the end of the regular season. The offense will now be led by Devin Brown, who attempted just 22 total passes this year with three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) as a former four-star prospect and top-50 national recruit. With Marvin Harrison Jr. all but definitely opting out to focus on the NFL Draft and Julian Fleming in the transfer portal, Emeka Egbuka and Carnell Tate will see the bulk of the reps at receiver with TreVeyon Henderson (probably) and Dallan Hayden in the backfield.
Defensively, the Buckeyes should be virtually at full strength outside of a few injured players who may sit out, including Tommy Eichenberg, but even that is not set in stone. Ohio State should have its entire secondary as it tries to slow down the Missouri passing attack, with its cornerback trio of Denzel Burke, Jordan Hancock and Davison Igibinosun all playing. There are also no indications they will be without any of their starters up front, including Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau — although the former is definitely more likely to play than the latter.
Missouri has not had any official opt outs for the Cotton Bowl at this point, and should be at full capacity across the board outside of two injuries on defense. Senior linebacker Ty’Ron Hopper and junior cornerback Ennis Rakestraw Jr. were both starters for the Tigers this season, but neither will be ready in time for Friday night’s contest. Hopper finished the regular season second on the team with 55 total tackles to go along with six tackles for loss and three sacks, while Rakestraw Jr. tallied 35 total tackles and four pass breakups in 2023.
The Tigers’ offense will be bringing all of its top weapons to AT&T Stadium, including quarterback Brady Cook and wide receiver Luther Burden. Cook finished third in the SEC this season with nearly 3,200 passing yards, tossing 20 touchdowns to just six interceptions while adding another eight TDs with his legs. Burden, one of the nation’s top wideouts this season as just a sophomore, racked up just under 1,200 yards and eight TDs through the air. Behind Cook and Burden, Missouri averaged 34.1 points per game this season, and will likely be the best passing offense Ohio State has seen this season.
While the Buckeyes have had a fair amount of roster attrition since the last time they took the field, the biggest names outside of McCord and Harrison Jr. are still playing. It will be interesting to see how much Ohio State looks to get some of its younger players important reps in this game, such as C.J. Hicks at linebacker and Brandon Inniss at wide receiver. Ryan Day obviously would prefer to win the game, but preparing his team for 2024 should be at the front of his mind above all else.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.