The Liberty Bowl on New Year’s Eve will not only mark the end of the 2018 season for the Missouri Tigers, it will mark the end of an era.
In 2015, the Tigers signed DL Terry Beckner Jr. (a 5-star recruit), QB Drew Lock, LB Terez Hall, WR Emanuel Hall and others in what has become one of the best Mizzou recruiting classes since 2010. Now, those players are suiting up for their final games, and it’ll be bittersweet for Tiger fans.
The Tigers have a chance to end the season on a high note and pick up win No. 9 of the year against a familiar foe in Oklahoma State. The Cowboys and Tigers became very familiar with each other when both were members of the Big 12.
There should be plenty of fireworks between the two explosive offenses, so with that said, here are 10 bold predictions for the exciting New Year’s Eve matchup:
1. Drew Lock will reach 100 career TD passes
Entering the game, Lock has 96 career touchdown passes over his impressive Mizzou career. Going up against a Big 12 defense like Oklahoma State’s, he’ll have a chance to reach the century mark.
Yes, the Tigers have been more balanced this year, but look for them to give the senior quarterback plenty of opportunities to find the end zone with his arm against the Cowboys. Getting to 100 touchdown passes would be a fantastic accomplishment.
2. Terry Beckner Jr. will show he’s worthy of a first-round pick
Beckner hasn’t matched his seven sacks from last year, but he’s still been a dominant force along the Mizzou defensive line and a leader of that unit, recording nine tackles for a loss and two sacks so far. As guys like Alabama’s Quinnen Williams, Auburn’s Derrick Brown and Mississippi State’s Jeffery Simmons get a lot of first-round buzz, Beckner will prove against the Cowboys that he should be mentioned in that same breath.
3. Two Tigers will run for 100 yards
The Tigers have three talented running backs, led by sophomore Larry Rountree III and junior Damarea Crockett. Freshman Tyler Badie has also had some huge games this year. Look for two of those guys to get at least 100 rushing yards.
4. There will be fewer than five punts
Each of these teams has high-octane offenses, so expect punting to be at a minimum. In fact, they may go a whole quarter (or a couple of quarters) without punting at all.
It would be a shame for Mizzou punter Corey Fatony not to see any action in his final game, so I expect the Tigers to get him on the field at some point, but his playing time may be very limited in Memphis.
5. Emanuel Hall goes out with a pair of TDs
This will be star WR Emanuel Hall’s last game as a Tiger, too, so he’ll be eager to turn in a strong performance to impress NFL Draft scouts. The Cowboys haven’t been able to stop opposing offenses all year long, so look for Hall to get behind the safeties a couple of times and connect with Lock for a pair of scores.
6. The defense snags two interceptions
It’s been an up-and-down season for the Mizzou secondary, but that unit has improved greatly as of late. Yes, Oklahoma State QB Taylor Cornelius has thrown for 28 touchdowns this year, but he also led the Big 12 with 11 interceptions. The Tigers will make it an unlucky 13 for him on Monday.
7. The Cowboys will run for fewer than 100 yards
Oklahoma State RB Justice Hill ran for 930 yards and nine touchdowns this year, but the junior won’t play in the Liberty Bowl. Behind him, Cornelius is the team’s leading rusher, which isn’t a good sign for the Cowboys. Mizzou’s run defense is solid, too, so coach Mike Gundy may choose to forgo the run all together and air it out all game long.
8. The announcers will mention Drew Lock’s draft stock at least a dozen times
With Oregon’s Justin Herbert returning to school, Lock could be the first quarterback off the board in the 2019 NFL Draft, as he, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins (who would also return to school) and Duke’s Daniel Jones are getting a lot of buzz. After every big throw Lock makes on Monday, look for Clay Matvick and Dan Orlovsky to mention how much NFL teams will love seeing that.
9. TE Kendall Blanton will have a touchdown
Star Mizzou TE Albert Okwuegbunam may not be ready to play in this game due to a shoulder injury. Even if he does play, he’ll likely be limited, so that opens up more opportunities for Blanton, a senior. Look for him to go out on a high note and snag a touchdown over a smaller defender in the end zone.
10. The over (74 points) will hit comfortably
I see this game reaching around 80 points, if not more. Both of these offenses are dynamic and have reason to air the ball out early and often. I’ll say the final score will be Mizzou 51, Oklahoma State 37.