Missouri vs. Ohio State: 5 things to know about the Cotton Bowl matchup
Missouri’s Sunday suspense didn’t rival the unveiling of the College Football Playoffs Final Four earlier in the afternoon, but the Tigers’ assignment to the Cotton Bowl had to come as a bit of relief after getting snubbed by top-tier bowl games, most notably in 2008 (karma quickly caught up with the program that lobbied against Mizzou) and 2013 when the Tigers won division titles and finished in the top 5 of the national rankings.
The Tigers finished the regular season 10-2, including 6-2 in the SEC.
Mizzou had some intriguing possibilities. Picking the best, depended on the viewpoint. Did the Tigers want the highest-profile matchup (Oregon, Ohio State) or the most beatable opponent (Liberty, Penn State or Jordan Travis-less Florida State)?
Here are 5 things to know about Mizzou’s Dec. 29 Orange Bowl matchup:
Mizzou will face an inspired, talented Ohio State team
The pressure is mounting on coach Ryan Day and his program, following 3 straight losses to archival Michigan. The Buckeyes will have had more than month to live through reminders of the latest Michigan loss. While it’s true, the Buckeyes’ goals always include making the Playoff, this team has no real beef about not getting in. Ohio State’s roster as usual, is loaded with talent, including Heisman long shot WR Marvin Harrison Jr., with some 13 players listed as likely NFL Draft picks this spring, including possibly 4 in the first round and 10 in the top 3 rounds, according to many NFL mock drafts.
Ohio State will likely have more stars than Mizzou opt out of the game
Who will decide not to play for the Buckeyes? Will Harrison, expected to be a top 5 draft pick in the spring? Just 2 years ago, Buckeye receivers Chris Olave and Garret Wilson opted not to play in the Rose Bowl. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer predicted that the Buckeyes with the “brightest futures” in the upcoming draft “will likely opt out.” Mizzou, which had 7 players, including the DE pair of DJ Coleman and Isaiah McGuire and WR Dominic Lovett, opt out of last year’s Gasparilla Bowl, should be less affected. The star trio of Burden, QB Brady Cook and RB Cody Schrader will play. Possible Mizzou opt outs include DL Ty’Ron Hopper and DBs Ennis Rakestraw and Kris Abrams-Draine.
Ohio State has a history of overpowering Mizzou
Yes, a cherished Mizzou memory is the Tigers’ come-from-behind 22-21 victory at Ohio State in 1976. Al Onofrio opted to go for the win, and Pete Woods fell into the end zone for the winning two-point play after a penalty gave the Tigers’ a second-chance for the conversion. But that’s the only highlight from a series history with Ohio State holding a 10-1-1 advantage. According to old reports, Mizzou coach and AD Don Faurot scheduled 9 games at Ohio State from 1939-1949 to help payout construction on Faurot Field. In a home-and-home series in 1997 and 1998, Ohio State wore down Mizzou in the second half for comfortable victories.
Ohio State QB Kyle McCord is not a major running threat
McCord has been solid, but he’s no Justin Fields or CJ Stroud. And he’s definitely no Jayden Daniels. Mizzou, like most other teams, has trouble containing outstanding running QBs. While McCord has outstanding passing statistics (3,170 yards, 24 TDs, 6 INT), he rushed for negative yardage and was sacked 16 times this season. If Harrison and other leading targets opt out, McCord may struggle. Ohio State rushed for a modest 4.3 yards per carry.
Several intangibles favor the Tigers
It’s a common and true adage that non-playoff bowl games are often won by the most-motivated team. Clearly, Mizzou should be the highest-motivated team. This has been a great season for a Tiger team picked to finish 6th in the SEC East that has gained momentum week to week. Though Ohio State has a huge traveling fan base, how excited is a team and fan base dreaming of a national title going to be about playing Mizzou in the Cotton Bowl? Then, there’s the likelihood of many OSU standouts opting out. Plus, the Cotton Bowl has been good to Mizzou, which is 2-1 in the game, including victories in 2008 and 2014, the school’s last two top 5 seasons.