Breaking down the Mizzou football vs. Ohio State matchup, plus early score prediction

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz already made the gag, leveling a jab at the other self-titled “America’s team” and the fiercest rivals of the Tigers’ bowl-game opponent.

At the end of an interview with ESPN, Drinkwitz joked former Michigan analyst Connor Stallions was calling him, and he was going to answer for an advantage over Ohio State.

That’s because No. 9 Mizzou football is bound for a New Year’s Six Bowl, as the Tigers earned a Cotton Bowl matchup against No. 7 Ohio State on Dec. 29 in Arlington, Texas. It’s been 10 years since the Tigers last went to the Cotton Bowl. It’ll be MU’s first major bowl appearance in the CFP era.

The Tigers aren’t, as far as we know, getting any help from the since-fired Michigan analyst. They’ll have to deal with the 11-1 Buckeyes, who were a playoff contender until the final week of the regular season, all on their own.

Here’s a look at the team the Tigers will face:

CFB Playoff contenders

The Cotton Bowl, without too much risk of hyperbole, is Missouri’s biggest game since the 2014 SEC Championship. The Tigers have fought tooth and nail to prove to anyone who will listen that they’re worthy of national attention and relevance.

Ohio State? Let’s not play coy … this likely isn’t where Ryan Day’s team set its sights at the beginning of the season.

The Buckeyes, other than a couple minor scares, cruised through their regular season until they met a familiar roadblock.

Jim Harbaugh (sort of) and the Michigan Wolverines.

This appeared to be OSU’s chance at bucking its recent trend of losses to its fiercest foe. Harbaugh wasn’t on the sideline, serving his second suspension of the season for reasons Drinkwitz has already mentioned, but Michigan still came out on top for the third straight season.

In the current climate of the Big Ten, 11-1 is more or less the floor for Ohio State. In a year packed to the brim with playoff contenders, that wasn’t enough to earn a playoff spot.

Top players in the Cotton Bowl

WR, Marvin Harrison Jr.: With Luther Burden III on one offense and Harrison on the other, this matchup will feature two of the best wide receivers in college football. Harrison has averaged 100.9 receiving yards per game this year, and the Biletnikoff Award finalist has caught 14 touchdown passes. Harrison is projected as a top-5 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

WR, Emeka Egbuka: As if Harrison isn’t enough … Egbuka also is touted as a potential first-round draft pick. The wide receiver has five touchdowns and 452 receiving yards in nine games this season.

DE, J.T. Tuimoloau: The Buckeyes have projected first-rounders on defense, too. Tuimoloau, a first-team All-Big Ten selection, has four sacks as part of six tackles-for-loss this season.

CB, Denzel Burke: Another touted Day 1 draft pick, Burke has eight pass breakups, one interception and a forced fumble this season.

Who will be Ohio State’s quarterback?

Ryan Day, speaking to local media, did not commit to Kyle McCord as the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback. McCord has since reportedly entered the transfer portal.

McCord, in his first full year as the Buckeyes’ starter, has averaged 264.2 passing yards per game, throwing for 24 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Sophomore Devin Brown, who has featured in five games this season, could be in line as a potential replacement.

Day also reportedly was unsure if any players would opt out.

What to know about Ohio State’s defense

What do Minnesota, Michigan State, Purdue and Indiana have in common?

They’re all Big Ten teams that failed to score more than seven points against the Buckeyes this season.

Are those team offensive juggernauts? No.

But the statistics shine favorably on the Buckeyes.

Ohio State boasts the nation’s No. 3 unit in total defense, giving up just 259.9 yards per game. They’re No. 2 in the country in scoring defense, allowing just 11 points per game.

The Buckeyes hold teams scoreless in the red zone 24% of the time, good for No. 16 in the nation. Only Michigan has allowed fewer red-zone trips than OSU’s 25.

Missouri’s rejuvenated offense, which currently ranks 25th in the nation in yards per game, will face perhaps its toughest test of the season against OSU defensive coordinator Jim Knowles’ unit.

Score prediction

Missouri will go to Dallas with its full roster, Drinkwitz said. None of the seniors are skipping this matchup.

Ohio State might be more of a question.

If both teams arrive with their full arsenals, this is the Buckeyes’ game to lose, but MU has proven it can hang — but not yet beat — college football’s biggest names. It’s certainly worth monitoring this one, especially if OSU players begin opting out, but on Dec. 3, Ohio State is the favorite.

Early game pick (Dec. 3): Ohio State 28, Missouri 24

Early betting line (Dec. 4): Ohio State (-2.5)

Over/under (Dec. 4): 50.5 points

The Star has partnered with the Columbia Daily Tribune for coverage of Missouri Tigers athletics.