Their BCS Bowl dreams snuffed on the final Saturday of the regular season, the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Missouri Tigers square off in Arlington and AT&T Stadium for this year's Cotton Bowl Classic. FOX has the prime-time broadcast starting at 7:30 PM (ET) on Friday, January 3, and the college football odds makers believe this will indeed be a tight affair between a couple of teams that are very familiar with each other.
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Mizzou opened as 1.5 point chalk, with that spread dropping to a point a little more than two weeks in advance of the event. SBR's live college football odds still lists 60.5 for the total, exactly where it began.
The Tigers and Cowboys are meeting for the 52nd time with Missouri winning 28 of the previous 51. They faced off regularly from 1960-2011, first as Big 8 foes and then Big 12 before the Tigers left for the SEC following the '11 season. The most recent get-together came that year when the Cowboys pasted a 45-24 final on the Tigers in Missouri. Oklahoma State easily covered the 5.5 point spread, the third straight win and cover vs. Missouri and fourth win/cover in the last five meetings.
Is This The Year Big 12 Gets Best Of SEC?
The Cotton Bowl has taken on something of a big brother-little brother look in recent years with the SEC representative beating the Big 12 squad the last five year, and nine of the last 10. Ironically, the last Big 12 team to win this contest was Missouri following the 2007 season.
The games haven't even been close in most cases, with Ole Miss' 21-7 win over Okie State in 2010 the smallest margin of victory in the last six Cotton Bowls. That leaves Mike Gundy and his staff with the task of trying to restore a little order in the event and bring a victory back home to Stillwater.
Oklahoma State (10-2 straight up, 8-4 against the spread) certainly has the talent to do that, but will the Cowboys be able to shake their stunning loss to rival Oklahoma in the season finale? They appeared to be on their way to the Big 12 title and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl before the Sooners scored twice in the final 20 seconds to dash those hopes.
The Cowboys bring a high-powered offense into the affair, ranking 14th in scoring (39.8 ppg) and racking up more than 440 yards per game on average. But there were times that Clint Chelf and the unit seemed to be just going through the motions and never developed a consistent assault. Quickly establishing the running game behind a solid offensive line, anchored by senior tackle Parker Graham, would go a long way to beating the Tigers.
Pinkel, Tigers Look To Extend SEC's Dominance Over Big 12
You can bet Gary Pinkel and his staff at Mizzou are stressing run defense in practices leading up to the Cotton Bowl. The Tigers were embarrassed by Auburn in the SEC Championship, allowing nearly 550 yards on the ground in the 59-42 loss after entering that game giving up only about 120 per contest.
Missouri (11-2 SU, 10-3 ATS) certainly has the front 7 to get that part of the game turned around. The group is led by end Michael Sam, recently selected a 1st-team All-American and Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC, and ranked seventh in the nation with 38 sacks plus third in tackles for loss (101).
While the defense was holding opponents to 22.5 PPG, quarterback James Franklin and the Mizzou offense were busy scoring 39 per game, just behind OSU's average. A deep backfield was paced by Henry Josey's 1,074 yards rushing, and Franklin has the luxury of two deep threats in L'Damian Washington and Dorial Green-Beckham.
Weather won't be a factor inside Jerry Jones' gridiron cathedral, and that's good news since you never know what you're going to get in the D-FW area this time of year. I'm looking for a high-scoring affair with my college football picks, and expect the total to be hurdled before the game gets too far into the fourth quarter.
My pick: Oklahoma State-Missouri Over 60.5Reg. Season: 31-15 (+14.5)