After six games, the Missouri Tigers had an abysmal 1-5 record and had lost five straight games, often in blowout fashion.
However, after that, coach Barry Odom’s squad went on a tear, winning six games in a row to finish the year with a stunning 7-5 record — one of the biggest second-half turnarounds in college football history.
The Tigers’ reward? A trip to Houston to take on the Texas Longhorns in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 27 (9 p.m. Eastern, ESPN) at NRG Stadium.
The game will pit the Tigers against a former Big 12 foe, and will be important for recruiting purposes, as Mizzou often gets some of its best players from the Lone Star State.
As Odom’s crew prepares for its first bowl game since a 2014 Citrus Bowl victory over Minnesota, here are a few things you should know about the Longhorns:
Texas has a significant all-time edge
The Tigers and Longhorns have gotten together 23 times over the years, with Texas holding a sizable 17-6 advantage in the all-time series.
However, before leaving for the SEC in 2012, the Tigers won the last game in the series, beating the Longhorns 17-5 at Faurot Field.
This time, the Tigers enter the game with some momentum, so it’ll be interesting to see if they can close the all-time gap by one game on Dec. 27.
The Longhorns use two quarterbacks
Starter Sam Ehlinger is the star, but sophomore Shane Buechele also sees action, especially when the Longhorns need more prowess through the air.
Ehlinger, in addition to throwing for 1,803 yards and 10 touchdowns, also leads Texas in rushing yards, with 364 (and two more touchdowns).
Ehlinger can beat you in many different ways, so Odom’s defense will need to make sure he’s uncomfortable in the pocket as much as possible and keep him contained.
They’re vulnerable to the pass…
The Longhorns rank one spot ahead of Mizzou in pass defense, checking in at No. 108 in the country. They give up 257.9 yards per game through the air, which obviously isn’t a good sign for them heading into a game against the nation’s leader in touchdown passes, Mizzou QB Drew Lock.
Lock has been on a tear lately, throwing for at least three touchdowns for eight straight weeks. Look for Lock to move the ball at ease through the air and add some more scores to his total of 43 so far.
… But they take advantage of mistakes
The Longhorns have grabbed an impressive 17 interceptions this year, returning five for touchdowns. Those five pick-sixes are tied with Wisconsin for the most in the country.
Lock seems to always throw one inexplicable interception early in every game; he’ll want to avoid that against a team with playmakers like Texas.
Longhorns star defensive back DeShon Elliott has already ruled himself out for the Texas Bowl as he prepares to enter the NFL Draft. He had a team-leading six interceptions, two returned for touchdowns.
Lock will still need to be wary of the remaining members of the secondary, but Elliott’s absence is a huge boost for Mizzou.
They can’t run the ball
Again, Ehlinger has the most rushing yards of any Longhorn with only 364.
Texas has two other 300-yard rushers in Chris Warren III (who leads the team with six rushing touchdowns) and Daniel Young, but the running game still isn’t going to scare anyone.
With an average of 141.83 yards per game, the Longhorns only have the No. 95 rushing offense in the country, well behind Mizzou’s average of 199.58 rushing yards per contest.