Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-2) vs. Missouri Tigers (11-2)
Jan. 3, 7:30 p.m. ET, Arlington, Texas (FOX)
OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS BREAKDOWN
Oklahoma State was one game away from its second Big 12 title and BCS bowl berth in three years. Problem for the Cowboys, that one game was the one they seemingly never can win.
The Cowboys will head to the AT&T Cotton Bowl with a sour taste after losing to Oklahoma for the 10th time in 11 years, spoiling what otherwise was a strong regular season.
Oklahoma State, which has already totaled double-digit wins for the third time in four seasons, hammered Big 12 champ Baylor by 32 points, a week after rolling Texas by 25 on the road.
The Cowboys boast the best defense they've had under coach Mike Gundy. They lead the Big 12 in scoring defense, turnovers forced, red zone efficiency and several “Next Level” stats such as points allowed per drive. The defense is also deep and experienced, with seven senior starters and a standout at every level: Calvin Barnett at tackle, Caleb Lavey at linebacker and Justin Gilbert at cornerback.
On the other side of the ball, the Cowboys aren't quite as explosive offensively as they've been in the past, but they can still put up points. Desmond Roland is a tough, one-cut running back, and the receiving corps is deep and talented, headlined by versatile playmaker Josh Stewart.
The offense, however, is usually only as good as quarterback Clint Chelf is. Chelf had the highest QBR of any signal-caller in the month of November, and as a result, Oklahoma State smoked Texas Tech, Texas and Baylor.
But in the cold of Bedlam, he struggled with his accuracy for most of the game, and in turn, the offense bogged down, which allowed the underdog Sooners to hang around. -- Jake Trotter
MISSOURI TIGERS BREAKDOWN
Give Gary Pinkel his due. Missouri’s veteran coach never pushed the panic button after the Tigers’ SEC debut a year ago produced a disappointing 5-7 season. His message all offseason was the same. Pinkel was confident Missouri would be better in Year No. 2, and he wasn't blindsided by anything the Tigers faced in their first season in the SEC.
He obviously knew what he was talking about because Missouri bounced back in a big way by winning 11 games and earning a trip to the SEC championship game. The Tigers enter the postseason on a bit of a downer after losing 59-42 on Saturday to Auburn in the SEC championship game. Missouri had no answers for Auburn’s running game and was shredded for 545 yards on the ground, but that was the exception this season.
The Tigers entered that game ranked second in the SEC against the run and hadn't given up more than 21 points in regulation in their last six games.
Whereas Missouri was decimated by injuries a year ago, the Tigers stayed relatively healthy this season. The notable exception was at quarterback. Senior James Franklin separated his shoulder against Georgia in the sixth game and missed most of the next four games. Redshirt freshman Maty Mauk stepped in and helped keep the Tigers in the SEC East race, and then Franklin returned against Ole Miss in the next-to-last regular-season game to finish the deal.
Franklin should be as healthy as he’s been since injuring his shoulder in the bowl game. Despite missing parts of five games, Franklin still passed for 2,255 yards and 19 touchdowns and rushed for 474 yards and four touchdowns. The Tigers scored more than 30 points in 10 of their 13 games and were one of the most balanced offensive teams in the SEC.
Senior running back Henry Josey rushed for 1,074 yards and 13 touchdowns and averaged 6.6 yards per carry. Three different receivers had more than 45 catches, with Dorial Green-Beckham and L'Damian Washington each surpassing 800 receiving yards. Green-Beckham, the No. 1 high school prospect in the country two years ago, caught 12 touchdown passes and Washington caught 10.
The Missouri receivers all pose difficult matchups for opposing defenses because of their size and athleticism. Green-Beckham is 6-foot-6 and Washington 6-4, and they both are excellent at going up and wrestling defensive backs for jump balls. -- Chris Low