Cotton Bowl: Missouri’s pass-rush among the best

Missouri Tigers

(Photo credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year. First-team All-American. First-team All-SEC. Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Lombardi Award finalist. The list goes on and on…

Missouri Tigers defensive end Michael Sam has received numerous honor for his play this season. His 10.5 sacks led the SEC and tied for ninth in the nation. He also leads Missouri with 18 tackles for loss. However, Sam is not the only Tigers’ defensive lineman wrecking havoc on opposing team’s backfields this season.

Sam has combined with Kony Ealy, Markus Golden and Shane Ray to form one of the best defensive lines in the nation.

Ealy, an All-SEC First-team selection in his own right, holds down the starting defensive end spot opposite Sam. After putting up 7.5 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, forcing three fumbles and recording one interception, the junior Ealy is fast rising up NFL draft boards. Ealy constantly keeps opposing quarterbacks on edge, with 14 quarterback hurries to his credit.

Golden and Ray have added great depth and have combined for 11 sacks, 22 tackles for loss and 17 quarterback hurries. On the season, Missouri’s defense has 38 sacks, good for first in the SEC and tied for seventh in the nation.

This could mean big problems for an Oklahoma State offensive line that has had its struggles in 2013. Despite allowing only 10 sacks all year, the Cowboys’ offensive line has had to use a variety of different lineups over the course of the season. Quarterback’s Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh have been seen scrambling for their lives at times, and the running game was largely ineffective early in the season (just 136.5 yards per game through the first six games).

After allowing Auburn to run all over them in the SEC championship, to the tune of 667 total yards of offense, including 545 yards on the ground, the Tigers’ defense will be looking to redeem itself in the Cotton Bowl, and that starts up front.

If Sam can come up big and help lead Missouri to a victory, perhaps he, or one of his fellow defensive lineman, could add Cotton Bowl MVP to an already impressive list of accomplishments.

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