The SEC is 5-2 in overall bowls heading into the Cotton Bowl, where the SEC has won the last five against Big 12 teams. These two teams will clash tonight at 7:30 PM ET on FOX, and here are five things to watch:
Similar styles: Missouri and Oklahoma State almost mirror one another. Both have explosive spread offenses and have had good defensive play throughout the season. The Tigers and Cowboys both finished No. 1 in their respective conferences in turnover margin, with Mizzou at +16 and OSU at +15. This will have a Big 12-style feel to the game, and there should be some points scored.
Bounce back: Missouri enters with a chip on their shoulder. The Tigers were throttled by Auburn, who racked up 677 total yards and 545 rushing yards in the SEC Championship. Obviously, Oklahoma State hasn’t been Auburn talented or dominant in the running game, but you can bet your boots they’ll try to enforce a similar game plan. How does Mizzou’s defense bounce back? Specifically, how does the defensive line duo of Michael Sam and Kony Ealy bounce back? Ealy played well against Auburn, but Sam was lost in the scheme and had minimal impact. The Tigers racked up an SEC-leading 38 sacks during the regular season. Sam, Ealy and Markus Golden should have more success getting to the quarterback against a team that isn’t so run heavy.
Biggest question: While the run defense was a major question against Auburn, I think the secondary enters as the bigger question tonight. If the defensive line has a much better pass rush, the secondary fears are minimized. Still, OSU is explosive down the field when given time in the pocket. Clint Chelf threw for 1,792 yards, 15 touchdowns and six INTs throughout the season while splitting time with JW Walsh, who threw for over 1,300 yards. Corners EJ Gaines and Randy Ponder, among others, will have their hands full. Missouri has an SEC-leading 18 INTs in 2013.
Getting the SEC back on track: After Alabama was beaten by Oklahoma last night, the SEC needs to win this game, especially against another Big 12 team. OSU will try to make it 2-0 against the SEC and make it happen in consecutive nights. That would be significant for a conference that was viewed as third-rate behind the SEC and Pac-12 this season. Missouri will try not to let that happen.
Best matchup: Mizzou’s Dorial Green-Beckham vs. Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert
This will be an interesting matchup and one that will happen on future Sundays. Dorial Green-Beckham has made significant strides throughout this season, and he’s caught 55 passes for 830 yards and a team-high 12 touchdowns. He blew up this year against Kentucky, and he reminded us why he was the No. 1 overall prospect in the country against Auburn. His matchup with OSU CB Justin Gilbert will be fun to watch, as Gilbert is an All-American, lockdown-type talent. The height of DGB and L-Damian Washington should be a factor against Gilbert and fellow 5-11 corner Kevin Peterson.
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