(7) THE Ohio State Buckeyes 11-1 (8-1) v. (9) University of Missouri Tigers 10-2 (6-2)
The college football season is entering its final few weeks. Nearly 40 bowl games have been played, showcasing talent from across the country, and many will argue that the bowl season has lost its luster. I would counter that these games give fans and programs answers to some what-ifs and what-could’ve-beens. The New Year’s Six bowls are considered the cream of the crop during the postseason. Four of these games are consolation prizes for teams that failed to make the College Football Playoff, while the other two act as the Semi-final games. This year, this slate of games starts on Friday night with the Cotton Bowl Classic.
Traditionally, the Cotton Bowl is a postseason game played between the Big 12 runner-up and an at-large SEC team. However, with the College Football Playoff and the NY6 format, we now see any combination of conference matchups, including this year’s bids from the SEC and Big 10.
Not quite the Grandaddy of Them All (The Rose Bowl), which unfortunately means the College Football Playoff was just out of reach for the Buckeyes this season. Still, a New Year’s Six bowl game is nothing to scoff at for Ohio State and its fans. The Bucks roll into Dallas with some lofty questions to answer. The exit and replacement of starting quarterback Kyle McCord is paramount among them.
On the other sideline, the Missouri Tigers come into this game with a chip on their shoulder, feeling a lack of respect and ready to pounce on an opportunity to upset a premier program still licking their wounds.
Date: Friday, 12/29/23
Time: 8 PM, Eastern
Venue: AT&T Stadium Dallas, Texas (Capacity: 80,000)
Series: Ohio State leads 10-1-1
Last Meeting: 35-14 Ohio State (1998)
What to Watch For:
The Buckeyes are still facing the demons of a tough loss and now could be without a large contingent of their team. It is well known that quarterback Devin Brown will fill in for Kyle McCord, who has opted for the transfer portal and, subsequently, Syracuse. At the time of writing, Marvin Harrison Jr. is still a question mark. However, all signs point to him opting out in favor of the draft. As with the previous 12 previews, the Buckeyes will rely heavily on their vastly improved defense from past seasons as their offense continues to find its identity. Stud linebacker Tommy Eichenberg may or may not be suiting up Friday night. Still, the most prominent names returning to the fold are defensive coordinator Jim Knowles and defensive line coach Larry Johnson. Together, they will have the Rushmen ready to terrorize the Tigers’ offensive line and force some ugly looks for the quarterback.
The Tigers have only lost two games this season. Granted, one of the losses was a hard-fought battle against the defending champion Georgia Bulldogs, and the other was a head-scratcher against the LSU Tigers and eventual Heisman winner quarterback Jayden Daniels. In that game, Mizzou gave up 22 points in the fourth quarter, whereas they had maintained control to that point. Unfortunately, most of this means nothing, as postseason bowl games are a different animal. As of now, the best thing going for the Tigers is that there have been no significant opt-outs prior to the Cotton Bowl. It appears that Mizzou is locked in and dedicated to upsetting the Buckeyes. Having thrown for over 3,000 yards this season, Quarterback Brady Cook will have some good looks in this game. Although Cook will have to scramble for his life, given enough time, he may be able to scorch a retooling Buckeye secondary.
Typically, this would be a game where the Buckeyes just have too many questions to answer, and seeing a dedicated Mizzou team chomping at the bit may scare away some. This game is a toss-up. It will come down to which Buckeyes team shows up. It could get ugly if they come out flat like they did a few years ago against Utah in the Rose Bowl. Conversely, if the Scarlet and Gray come in with half of the juice they showed up to last year’s Peach Bowl, Mizzou will have wished they stayed in Columbia. Devin Brown will get his shot; it’s his game and roster spot to lose at this point, and I doubt he’ll waste it. The Buckeyes win 31-17.