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Dawg Preview: Missouri Tigers and Ohio State Buckeyes Battle in the Cotton Bowl

The Missouri Tigers (10-2) and Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1) will face off in what will be a fun matchup between one of the nation's best offenses versus one of the nation's best defenses. Only one can hold the crown of Cotton Bowl champion though, so let's analyze who will bring home the hardware from Arlington.

Broadcast Info:

Date: Friday, December 29th, 2023

Time: 8:00 PM EST

Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX


Calling: Dave Pasch, Dusty Dvoracek, Tom Luginbill

Radio: ESPN Radio (Check Local Listings)

Betting Line

Ohio State -3.0

Over/Under: 48.5

Tale of the Tape: Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State just missed out on the College Football Playoff with a loss to Michigan after what was a very impressive season from the Buckeyes. An offense led by arguably the best wide receiver room in the nation, the 3rd ranked defense in the land, and a host of All-Conference and All-American talent sprinkled throughout the roster is what got them to this point, however, can they best an SEC team with similar caliber wide receivers, a defensive back room that has been battle-tested and is elite, and has a coach that has brought upon one of the best turnarounds this year has seen?

Offensively, the Buckeyes will be without quarterback Kyle McCord, who has committed to Syracuse at the time of writing this article. They have also lost a decent portion of their running back room in Chip Trayanum and Willtrell Hartson, tight end Joe Royer, and wide receiver Julian Fleming. This offense still has Marvin Harrison, Jr., Emeka Egbuka, Treveyon Henderson, and Cade Stover though, all of which had significant contributions. Harrison, Jr. does have skepticism surrounding him that he will be available though, as he is dealing with health issues and could sit out to maintain his NFL Draft stock, but that remains to be seen. If he can and is willing to go, that certainly helps the Buckeyes' chances. Missouri has strong pass defenders like Kris Abrams-Draine patrolling the skies, but if you can have weapons for backup-turned-starting quarterback Devin Brown to throw to, this could be a Missouri defense worth testing through the air even with the backup. If Kyle McCord was able to gash good pass defenses, then Brown can be expected to as well. Otherwise, expect the Buckeyes to keep this Missouri defense honest with the ground game to potentially open things up. The Tiger run defense does rank 30th in the land, but can still be gashed for big yardage like LSU and Georgia did in Missouri's two losses.

Defensively for the Buckeyes, while the Missouri wide receivers do pose a threat, the Ohio State pass defense ranks best in the land, with just 147.4 yards per game allowed. While this number may be skewed due to being in a run-heavy conference, it's still to be noted. The Buckeyes have a lot of talent in the secondary even with the losses of Cameron Martinez, Kye Stokes, Ryan Turner, and Jyaire Brown to the portal, with Davison Igbinosun, Sonny Styles, and Josh Proctor holding it down on the back end. They face a tough task in stopping a Missouri passing attack that includes the likes of Luther Burden III and Theo Wease, Jr., but stopping the Tiger passing attack deals a big blow to their offensive scheme. That's not the only factor this Buckeye defense should be worried about though, as SEC leading rusher and Doak Walker finalist Cody Schrader is a force to be reckoned with once he gets going. Utilizing the second-level defenders and stuffing him early will be imperative and with a great linebacking corps led by Tommy Echenburg and Steele Chambers, that will hopefully not be an issue.

Tale of the Tape: Missouri Tigers

The Tigers have performed well above preseason expectations this year. With head coach Eli Drinkwitz on the hot seat to begin the season, the Tigers performed masterfully in securing one of the top spots in the SEC as well as Drinkwitz's job, and look to cap this historic season off with a Cotton Bowl victory.

On the offense, the balanced attack of Brady Cook and his star-studded cast of wide receivers as well as the SEC's top rusher for 2023 Cody Schrader will need to get going quickly, as this could turn into a track meet. Read more on Cory and his accomplishments here, and understand that he's going to need to come up big for the Tigers to win. Ohio State's defense is rock solid, but Missouri has dealt with rock-solid defenses in games past. The question is, will it be enough and can they keep up with the opposing explosive offense in the Buckeyes? Having a balanced attack will be huge as that's how Michigan got through and had big plays against this defense. Getting Schrader going early so that the Buckeyes cheat up will be the start of that, and taking openings as they come will be key. This will be similar to the Georgia game in that you face an extremely strong, but still vulnerable defensive front, so pounding Schrader to allow that second-level to open up holes will be the key to victory. It almost happened with Georgia, and can happen should Missouri learn from its mistakes and be more opportunistic.

Defensively, pressure will be the major key to a victory here. Devin Brown may be the backup, but there's a reason he is on Ohio State's roster to begin with. He's a good football player, however, putting pressure on him with his lack of experience will cause mistakes that this Mizzou secondary can easily capitalize on. While the wide receivers do pose a threat, making sure Treveyon Henderson doesn't get going will be just as important. It's how Georgia and LSU beat this squad, by not containing the run and having to cheat up too much to where they were vulnerable to the big play, and that matters now more than ever. The defensive line and linebackers have to stuff him for little to no gain, otherwise the balanced attack of Ohio State will turn this into a track meet, as mentioned before. Guys like Chuck Hicks need to come up huge here with starting linebacker Ty'Ron Hopper out, and with the tests they've faced in the SEC while still only allowing 125 rushing yards per game, this hopefully will not be an issue.

Conclusion and Final Score Prediction - Cotton Bowl

These two teams are very, very similar. Elite wide receiving corps, workhorse running backs that can gash you at any moment, and strong key secondary pieces paired with even stronger front sevens will make for a very even matchup down the stretch. As stated before, this could turn into a track meet where whoever scores last wins, but Missouri has a slight advantage here. Missouri has played teams like Ohio State before and has experienced offenses shaped much like it. With a quarterback who doesn't have much experience like Devin Brown at the helm, the offense will need to be even more simplistic than it already was, and that's saying a lot regarding Brian Hartline's offense. Nothing too special, just banking off the talent of the skill players mostly. Disrupt that, and Missouri has the upper hand, much like how Michigan did. It'll still be close, but Missouri pulls it off to cap off one of the best turnarounds we've seen from an SEC program in a long time.

Final Score: Missouri 35-Ohio State 31


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