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Football: Missouri Opens as Heavy Favorite Against UConn

The Huskies are not expected to keep it close, but there are a few positive factors in their favor.

Maty Mauk is not joking around.
Maty Mauk is not joking around.
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

According to the oddsmakers in Las Vegas, UConn's chances of keeping it close Saturday against Missouri are pretty low.

According to Vegas Insiders, the point spread for Saturday's game opened between 21 and 23.5, with a little movement downward for some of the higher ones. In previous weeks, UConn was a seven-point underdog against Villanova according to offshore sites, and a seven-point favorite against Army.

The New Haven Register's Jim Fuller reported Missouri's top running back Russell Hansbrough is likely out for this week's game. Hansbrough is Missouri's leading returning rusher from last year, leading the team with 1,084 rushing yards in 2014. Sophomore Ish Witter is currently listed as the Tigers' starter. Witter ran for 101 yards last year as a freshman.

Missouri's offensive identity is run-heavy, with quarterback Maty Mauk also a threat to make plays with his legs. The Tigers have a strong and experienced offensive line, so they may be able to establish the run with Witter. But they will be put to the test against UConn's front seven. This weekend's matchup should feature an entertaining battle between those two units.

The Tigers' defense will be a challenge – a significant step up from what UConn has faced so far, as expected. Missouri's secondary is extremely talented, and while their run defense was a question mark entering the season, it has performed well so far. The Tigers allowed 2.1 yards per carry to Arkansas State last week. The Redwolves did somehow manage to keep things close against Missouri, falling by a touchdown despite having the lead at halftime. Perhaps UConn's surprisingly successful offense can make things harder for the Tigers.

The on-field leader of UConn's revamped offense, quarterback Bryant Shirreffs, was named to the American Athletic Conference Weekly Honor Roll for his Week 2 performance against Army. The redshirt sophomore threw for 270 yards while boasting a 76 percent completion percentage and adding 31 yards on the ground.

This Saturday's game will be televised nationally on ESPN at noon.