Valero Alamo Bowl: Northwestern (9-3) vs. Missouri (9-4)

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Northwestern got a raw deal or a great opportunity, depending on how you look at it.

Not only were the Wildcats snubbed by the Outback Bowl, but they face a very tough matchup in Missouri, a preseason national title contender that boasts one of the game's top passing combinations in quarterback Chase Daniel and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. Then again, a Valero Alamo Bowl victory would give Northwestern just the second 10-win season in school history and some national recognition.

A defense that improved 24 spots in the national rankings under first-year coordinator Mike Hankwitz faces arguably its toughest test of the season in Missouri, which is sixth in both scoring (43.2) and total offense (497.5 ypg). Defensive end Corey Wootton and a unit that led the Big Ten in sacks (33) must apply pressure on Daniel, who threw multiple touchdown passes in all but one game.

Wildcats running back Tyrell Sutton hopes to return from a dislocated wrist, but the spotlight will be on his Jekyll-and-Hyde backfield mate, quarterback C.J. Bacher. Missouri can't defend the pass (117th nationally), and for Northwestern to hang around, Bacher must attack down the field.