Cotton Bowl preview: Missouri vs. Oklahoma State

Cotton BowlSo close, yet so far away.

It is a phrase often thrown around during bowl season, as many teams are left to wonder what might have been. But, one bowl matchup in which the phrase carries some real meaning is this year’s AT&T Cotton Bowl between the Missouri Tigers (11-2) and the Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-2). Each team finished just one win away from representing their respective conferences in a BCS bowl game.

However, if forced to settle for the next best thing, the tradition-rich Cotton Bowl is not a bad consolation.

This year’s game pits two longtime rivals against one another. The Missouri-Oklahoma State rivalry dates all the way back to the original Big Eight and most recently the former Big 12 Conference. It will be the 52nd all-time meeting between the schools, with Missouri leading the series 28-23. However, Oklahoma State has won four of the last five meetings, including a 45-24 decision in 2011 that serves as the last meeting between the schools.

What’s at stake:

Missouri has come a long way since being picked to finish sixth in the SEC East at preseason media days. For the Tigers, this is a chance to cap off one of the great turnaround stories in college football this season. After a 5-7 finish in its first season of SEC play, Missouri’s record sits at 11-2, with a chance to tie the school record for wins with a victory in the Cotton Bowl.

Oklahoma State will be making its eighth straight bowl appearance under head coach Mike Gundy, who has led the team to a 5-2 postseason record. With a win in the Cotton Bowl, the Cowboys would have their fourth straight bowl win.

Key Matchup:

Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert vs. Missouri WR Dorial Green-Bckham

One would be hard pressed to find a more intriguing one-on-one matchup this bowl season. Both Gilbert and Green-Beckham are future NFL players and potential first-round draft picks. Gilbert offers experience, athleticism and has big-play potential with the ball in his hands. He led the Big 12 with six interceptions in 2013 and has five career kickoff returns for touchdowns. Green-Beckham has a rare mix of size, speed and ability for a wide receiver. The 6-foot-6 Green-Beckham led Missouri with 12 reception touchdowns and has 55 receptions for 830 yards on the season.

Prediction:

Slowing down Missouri’s potent offense (492.9 yards per game), with gifted playmakers at virtually every position, won’t be an easy task for an Oklahoma State defense that ranked 45th nationally (378.5 YPG). The Cowboys will need to rely on their solid running game (172 YPG) and steady play from veteran quarterback Clint Chelf to have a chance. These teams are quite familiar with each other from their days as conference rivals, which should make for a close game. Missouri wins in a shootout 42-38.