In order for the SEC to get bragging rights its depending on a former Big 12 team to beat a current Big 12 team?
AT&T Cotton Bowl
#8 Missouri (11-2) vs #13 Oklahoma State (10-2)
TV: 7:30pm ET on FOX
Opening Line: Missouri -3.5
Current Line: Oklahoma State -1
Cool Factor: Well, from a Missouri perspective there’s very little cool about going back to the Cotton Bowl to play an old conference foe you split from just two years ago. If it were Kansas on the other sideline, it’d be different. But the OSU/Missouri rivalry isn’t exactly steeped in tradition. Also, the Tigers are working hard to shift their recruiting base from Texas — where they’ll not play as often — to Florida and Georgia — where they’ll play on a regular basis. But instead of getting a berth in a Florida bowl against a different foe from the Big Ten, they get a “back to the future” type game. Worse, recruits watching on TV are much more likely to watch the BCS Orange Bowl between Ohio State and Clemson. So, yeah, Mizzou got a bum deal. On the plus side for viewers, this game could/should have plenty of offensive fireworks. The Cowboys come in averaging 39.8 points per game while the Tigers put up 39.0 per contest. (Then again, last night’s game was supposed to be a defensive struggle.)
What’s At Stake: Bragging rights between the Big 12 and SEC. The SEC swiped two Big 12 teams. According to Arkansas AD Jeff Long, the Big 12 failed to coax the Razorbacks into thinking about a move of their own. And the two leagues will now be working more closely together moving forward — the new basketball challenge, the Sugar Bowl becoming an annual SEC/Big 12 tilt, the Texas Bowl, etc. No one in the SEC wants the Big 12 to kick off all those new agreements by besting a pair of top 10 conference representatives in big-time bowls. Bama already wet the bed, so it’s up to Mizzou to carry their new league’s banner proudly. If not, get ready to hear more talk of SEC “propaganda” from Bob Stoops and the folks in the Midwest.
Keep An Eye On: The turnover battle. Alabama lost last night because it gave away points via turnovers (including 21 in the first half alone). You know our mantra around here — There is no more important stat in football than turnovers. And these two teams force ‘em. Oklahoma State led the Big 12 in turnover margin forcing 30. Missouri led the SEC by forcing 29. Offensively, Mizzou lost just 13 while OSU lost only 15. We could break down a million angles to this game — as we did Bama’s last night — but turnovers are the key ingredient. Whoever wins the turnover battle in Arlington tonight will likely win the game.
Hidden Tidbit: Keep an eye on Missouri’s tall, lanky receivers. When 6-4 L’Damian Washington and 6-6 Dorial Green-Beckham go out for passes, one of them will be paired up with 6-foot All-American corner Justin Gilbert and the other by 5-11 cornerback Kevin Peterson. The Tigers will have the height advantage, but the Cowboys rank #4 in America with 20 interceptions and #16 nationally in passes defended. James Franklin only threw five INTs in nine games played and MU ranks fifth in the country with 23 big plays of 40 yards or more. If you’re looking battles within the battle, that’s a big one — Can Missouri go over the top against OSU?
Hidden Tidbit: Missouri led the SEC in sacks this season with 38. Gary Pinkel’s pass rushers have recorded a sack in each of their last 10 games and two or more sacks in eight of their last 10. And it wasn’t just one man doing the rushing. Michael Sam had 10.5, yes, but Markus Golden had 6.5, Kony Ealy had 6.0, Shane Ray had 4.5 and Matt Hoch had 3.0. Those are all D-linemen so the Tigers know how to create pressure without having to blitz. But. Oklahoma State only allowed 11 sacks for minus-60 yards all season. That was tops in the Big 12 and #6 in the nation. The Pokes put the ball in the air 427 times which means they gave up one sack every 39.8 pass attempts. Can The Tigers get to Oklahoma State quarterback Clint Chelf?
Prediction: Missouri 41, Oklahoma State 40