Cotton Bowl Preview and Prediction: Missouri vs. Oklahoma State

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Missouri looks to continue SEC domination against former Big 12 foe

Cotton Bowl Preview and Prediction: Missouri vs. Oklahoma State

The teams in the Cotton Bowl will hope their final games of the 2013 regular season weren’t as bad as they looked.

Missouri matched Auburn for three quarters in the SEC Championship Game, a matchup that would have sent Mizzou to the national title bout. On the other hand, Missouri’s defense, the hallmark of the surprising season in Columbia, was non-existent that day, running out of steam in the fourth quarter. Missouri surrendered 677 yards, including 545 rushing, to Auburn in the Georgia Dome.

Earlier in the day, Oklahoma State looked out of sorts with the Big 12 title and a BCS bid on the line against Oklahoma. The Cowboys outgained Oklahoma by 42 yards, but allowed de facto third-string quarterback Blake Bell to put together a game winning drive in the final 19 seconds.

The letdown factor could be at play in Dallas, but it shouldn’t be.

For Missouri, this is another opportunity to prove the Tigers will thrive as an SEC program, if there was any lingering doubt after Mizzou won the East this season. Texas A&M thrashed its former conference foe Oklahoma in last year’s Cotton Bowl, and Missouri can do the same against a program it defeated only once in the final five meetings in the Big 12.

For Oklahoma State, the Cowboys lost two winnable games this season — the sloppy effort against OU in the Bedlam Game and a baffling loss to bowl no-show West Virginia.

Missouri vs. Oklahoma State

Kickoff: Jan. 3, 7:30 p.m. Eastern
TV Channel: Fox
Spread: Missouri by 1

Three Things to Watch

Missouri’s huge receivers vs. Oklahoma State’s secondary
Unlike other teams in the SEC East, Missouri was able to overcome injuries at quarterback in part because of the top receiving corps in the confererence. Dorial Green-Beckham (6-foot-6, 225), L’Damian Washington (6-4, 205) and Marcus Lucas (6-5, 220) are all big bodies who combined to catch 24 of Missouri’s 30 touchdown catches this season. Oklahoma State finished ninth nationally in pass efficiency defense and fourth in interceptions, but the Cowboys’ also linebackers played a key role in defending the pass as eight of Oklahoma State’s 20 picks this season came from linebackers. Cowboys cornerback Justin Gilbert (six interceptions, two touchdowns) will be in the spotlight to make a game-turning turnover, but James Franklin, who will start the bowl, and Maty Mauk combined to throw only seven picks all year.

Clint Chelf vs. Missouri’s pass rush
Clint Chelf capped the 2013 regular season with his best two games of the season against Texas and Baylor and then one of his most lackluster since regaining the job against Oklahoma. Chelf went 19 of 35 for 200 yards wiht a touchdown and an interception and was a non-factor in the run game against the Sooners. Missouri’s bread and butter on defense was a pass rush that led the SEC at 2.9 sacks per game. The defensive front of Michael Sam, Markus Golden and Kony Ealy combined for 23 sacks this season. Chelf will seek a replay of the win over Texas in which the Oklahoma State quarterback used designed runs to evade the Longhorns’ elite pass rushers.

Big plays from Henry Josey
This is another meeting of strength vs. strength. Missouri running back Henry Josey averaged 8.9 yards on 48 carries in the final four games of the season, including a 65-yard run against Auburn, a 57-yard run against Texas A&M and an 86-yard run against Kentucky. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State allowed only three 30-yard runs all season, the fewest in the Big 12.

Key Player: Desmond Roland, Oklahoma State
The lasting image from the SEC championship game will be Tre Mason scampering for 304 yards and four touchdowns against the Missouri defense. Oklahoma State doesn’t have Auburn’s run game, but Desmond Roland is capable of putting up a big performance. He rushed for 219 yards and four touchdowns against Iowa State, 96 yards and three touchdowns against Texas Tech and 144 yards and two touchdowns against Oklahoma. The Cowboys may need something like that to beat Missouri.

Final Analysis
In many ways, Missouri and Oklahoma State is an ideal bowl matchup. Both teams have their share of strengths that will be up against a strength for the other team — Missouri’s receivers against Oklahoma State’s pass defense, Clint Chelf’s mobility vs. Michael Sam, for starters. The game has all the signs of a tight bowl matchup, especially compared to some of the other January bowl matchups. One thing worth remembering: Even through realignment, the SEC has won nine of the last 10 Cotton Bowl games — the exception being Missouri’s 38-7 win over Arkansas in the 2008 game.

Prediction: Missouri 28, Oklahoma State 24

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