It wasn’t planned that way, but this season’s Cotton Bowl matchup between Oklahoma State and Missouri might just be the best bowl game of the season. These two former Big 12 foes will get at each other on Friday night at AT&T Stadium (formerly Cowboys Stadium and still the home of the Dallas Coeboys of the NFL).
The Cotton Bowl matchup between these two schools marks the fifth time in the 51 previous regular-season games between them that both teams have entered the game nationally ranked. Missouri is ranked No. 8 in the final BCS standings; Oklahoma State is No, 13. Only five games separates the Tigers and the Cowboys in the all-time series, with Missouri leading the overall series with a record of 28-23.
Both teams feature explosive offensive attacks. Missouri (11-2), runner-up to Auburn in the SEC Championship game this season, averaged close to 40 points and 490 yards of total offense per game, which ranks the Tigers 16th in the nation. Oklahoma State’s offense also averages close to 40 points per game and ranks 40th in the country in total offensive yards per game (440). The Tigers offensive output is more balanced (252 ypg passing and 236 rushing; the Cowboys rely more on their passing attack, led by senior quarterback Clint Chelf, to advance the ball.
Oklahoma State is making its 24th appearance in a postseason bowl and fourth Cotton Bowl appearance. The Cowboys are 15-8 all-time in bowl games and 1-2 in Cotton Bowl appearances. This is Missouri’s third Cotton Bowl appearance and their first since 2008, when they hammered Arkansas from the SEC 38-7.
This is the final college game for the quarterbacks on each side. Both Chelf and James Franklin of Missouri are seniors, and both have had outstanding seasons.
Franklin missed several games with a shoulder injury, but still managed to complete 65 percent of his pass attempts for 2,300 yards and 19 touchdowns. Sophomore Maty Mauck filled in more than satisfactorily in Franklin’s absence, but he is not as proficient a runner as Franklin, who rambled for 583 yards and was the Tigers third leading ball carrier this season. When Franklin does throw the ball, his three primary targets are Dorial Green-Beckham, Marcus Lucas and L’Damian Washington, who combined for 24 touchdown catches in 2013.
Chelf is not known as a running quarterback, bit in the Cowboys last couple of games in the regular season, he showed off his legs more so than normal, taking off for 95 total yards on the ground in a big win over Texas. When Chelf does unload the ball, he generally tries to find wide receivers Josh Stewart or Tracy Moore. Junior running back Desmond Roland shoulders most of the load in the Cowboys’ running game, averaging close to five yards a carry.
Three Things To Watch For In The Game
- The matchup between Missouri wide-receiver Dorial Green-Beckham and the Cowboys’ All-Big 12 cornerback Justin Gilbert will play a big factor in the outcome of this game. The talented Mizzou receiver caught 55 passes this season, averaging over 15 yards per reception with 12 resulting in touchdowns.
- Both teams come into this game with a chip on their shoulder. They both were hopeful of playing in a BCS bowl, but fell just short in their final regular-season games – Missouri losing to Auburn in the SEC Championship and Oklahoma State falling at home in the final minute to Bedlam rival Oklahoma. The winner of this Cotton Bowl matchup will be the team that overcomes that disappointment mind set and comes out wanting this game more than their opponent.
- Both teams have shown all year that they can move the ball and put up lots of points, but Oklahoma State’s defensive numbers have been slightly better. A key to watch for is how well Missouri can run the ball against an Oklahoma State defensive front that has held its opponents to about 100 fewer yards per game (132) than Missouri is used to putting up on the ground (236.5).
Game prediction: Missouri 28, Oklahoma State 24 – This game is almost a toss up, given how closely matched these two teams are. Missouri is a little better balanced between offense and defense, and I believe the Missouri has more overall depth and a better season resume. MU in a close one.