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The Cotton Bowl will be a fun game and could easily be a much better game to watch than some of the BCS bowls. Two of the top teams from the SEC and Big 12 face off in a battle of former conference foes. Missouri is a slight favorite at -1.5 points in most books.
The Tigers were one of the more surprising teams this season, making it to the SEC Championship game after managing five wins last year. We knew they were for real after solid back-to-back wins against Georgia and Florida back in October. They grabbed another big win late in the year against Texas A&M to matchup with Auburn in the conference title, only to get their defense beat up for 59 points. Missouri's first loss was a bit of a meltdown in the fourth quarter vs. South Carolina, but even in those losses, they showed they can compete with anyone.
Oklahoma State surprised as well this year, but not quite as much as Missouri. The Cowboys finished 8-4 ATS while the Tigers were 10-2-1 ATS, one of the best marks in the nation.
No one gave the Cowboys much thought after losing to West Virginia in their first Big 12 game, but they then reeled off seven straight wins. With a chance to make it to a BCS bowl, they faltered losing at home to Oklahoma in the finale. They didn't look like the greatest teams at times, but back-to-back big wins against Texas and Baylor in November changed those opinions.
It took about half the season for OK State to figure out its starting QB, but now Clint Chelf looks like the answer. He finished with 1,792 yards with 15 TDs and six INTs in about eight games of work. Chelf struggled in his first couple starts, but really came on in the biggest games, although he was unable to do much against the Sooners. This team likes to pass, but maybe not as much as previous ones. Chelf uses his receivers pretty evenly with no one having more than 638 yards, but four guys with at least 415 yards. The Cowboys' win streak started because they started running the ball more with Desmond Roland (745 yards, 12 TDs) and Jeremy smith (442 yards, nine TDs). While it's not amazing, they've been able to move the ball in most games on the ground.
Missouri's defense will be looking to bounce back after getting destroyed by Auburn. This is the same unit that held Texas A&M to 28 points and Georgia to 26 so you know what they can do. OK State could have trouble running the ball, which means Chelf may have to air it out.
Oklahoma State's defense is an unknown. They gave up a combined 30 points to Texas and Baylor, but then 33 to Oklahoma in the last game. It's been solid for most of the season, except Missouri will be one of the most complete offenses it's faced.
James Franklin leads the Tigers with 19 TDs and five INTs despite missing four games due to injury. The Cowboys have some tough defensive backs, but going against big WRs like L'Damian Washington (853 yards, 10 TDs) and Dorial Green-Beckham (830 yards, 12 TDs), the advantage goes to the offense. The Tigers actually have a better running game, which makes this team so tough to play. Franklin has another 474 yards and four TDs on the ground, but a trio of RBs is the main threat. Henry Josey (1,074 yards, 13 TDs) leads the way, but Russell Hansbrough (660 yards, four TDs) and Marcus Murphy (571 yards, nine TDs) are also in the mix to get touches.
This matchup presents a lot of interesting scenarios with each team solid on both ends of the ball. They last played in 2011 with OK State coming out winners 45-24 led by Brandon Weeden. Both teams have come a ways since then, including James Franklin who threw three INTs in that game.
The Cowboys are 6-1 ATS in their last seven games and 4-1 ATS in their last five non-conference games. The Tigers are 4-9 ATS in their last 13 neutral site games and 6-2 ATS vs. a team with a winning record. And as stated before, the Tigers were 10-2-1 ATS this year.
This could very well be the best Bowl game of the year. As a handicapper, I'm legitimately stumped. When that's the case, the only thing to do is sit back and enjoy what figures to be a helluva football game.
So, I'll leave you with our models 3 sets of predictions for this one. Using data from the entire season the model says it's Oklahoma State 31 Mizu 30. Using data from only the last 7 games, it's Oklahoma State 32-26 and using data from the last 4 games it's Oklahoma State 39-22.
Enjoy the game. It should be a good one!
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