Cotton Bowl: Preview, Predictions, TV info

By Jerry Hinnen | College Football Writer

What: AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic

Who: Oklahoma State (10-2, 7-2 Big 12) vs. Missouri (11-2, 7-2 SEC)

When: Friday, Jan. 3, 8 p.m. ET (FOX)

Where: AT&T Stadium (71,167), Arlington, Tex.

Opening Line: Missouri -1.5

What matters: The Cowboys' and Tigers' losses (with their respective league championships on the line) are the Cotton's gain, as the venerable bowl gets to match up a pair of former Big 12 rivals that won a combined 21 games. But thought there should be some offensive fireworks, don't necessarily expect a stereotypical Big 12 shootout (or, you know, SEC Championship Game) to break out; Mike Gundy's defense ranks 11th in the FBS in yards allowed per-play, and Gary Pinkel's Tigers didn't allow a single opponent to score more than 28 points all season until running into the Auburn buzzsaw. That's not to say the offenses aren't capable of lighting up the scoreboard, though -- the Tigers averaged 39 points a game and the Cowboys 40.

Who matters: Clint Chelf picked a terrible time to turn back into the quarterback who was benched early in the season. The Cowboy senior had posted four increasingly impressive performances -- including a masterful 19-of-25, 370-yard, 3-touchdown outing in the rout of Baylor -- before rocketing back to earth against Oklahoma, tossing up a 19-of-35, 200-yard (5.7 YPA), 1-touchdown, 1-interception semi-dud. Now he faces a talented Mizzou secondary led by All-SEC corner E.J. Gaines and a pair of exceptional pass rushers in Michael Sam and Kony Ealy -- and the memory of the loss to the Sooners to remind him of what happens if he doesn't perform to his November standards.

Matchup question: For all the matchup problems the Tiger receiving corps of L'Damin Washington, Dorial Green-Beckham and Marcus Lucas present, Missouri is actually far more efficient running the ball with Henry Josey, Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy; the Tigers average 5.68 yards per-carry, 10th in the nation, and 8.1 yards per passing attempt, "only" 27th in the FBS. Can senior linebacker and leading tackler Caleb Lavey help keep Josey and Co. in check and force Missouri out of its preferred balance?

Prediction: The numbers say that the Cowboys are a shade better on defense, the Tigers a shade better on offense. Your coinflip is as good as ours, but here's a guess that Josey and Green-Beckham generate one or two more big plays than Chelf can answer. Missouri 30, Oklahoma State 28

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