Few teams can say they finished the 2013 college football season where they were projected. Oklahoma State, though, finished where many experts expected.
In the preseason, the Cowboys were ranked 13th in the AP Top 25 poll. As the school prepares for their matchup with No.8 Missouri in the 2014 Cotton Bowl, that’s exactly where they stand. Oklahoma State went 10-2, finishing tied for second place in the Big 12. They were on their way to a conference title in their last game, but the club was upset by then-No.17 Oklahoma. Baylor went on to win the Big 12 and play in the Fiesta Bowl.
While Oklahoma State’s road to the Cotton Bowl wasn’t a surprising one, few experts, if any, thought Missouri would make it this far. Following a 5-7 finish in 2012, Missouri didn’t receive any votes in either top 25 poll. Just a few months later, they were one victory game short of reaching the BCS National Championship Game.
Missouri last played on Dec. 7, losing to Auburn in the SEC title game. Prior to that defeat, they had played just about as well as any team in the nation. Included in their 11 wins are victories against Georgia, Florida, Ole Miss and Texas A&M. Their only defeat before playing Auburn was a double-overtime loss to South Carolina, who’s in the top 10 and beat Wisconsin in Capital One Bowl.
With both teams coming off losses that cost them conference championships, each one is eager to end their season with a win. Missouri was originally favored by more than a field goal, but the betting line at Las Vegas casinos has seen a significant shift. A day before the matchup, the Cowboys are giving the Tigers 1.5 points.
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Missouri has been surprising the betting public all year, going 10-2-1 against the spread. Oklahoma State has covered eight of 12 point spreads.
The teams are similar, sporting strong offenses and defenses. How they score most of their points differs, though. The Tigers are built on a strong rushing attack. Henry Josey leads the team with 1,074 yards on the ground, but Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy have combined to rush for over 1,200 yards. Quarterback James Franklin recently returned after missing four games with an injury, but he’s also a threat to run. He’s picked up at least 60 rushing yards in five of his nine games.
Missouri was forced to start Maty Mauk at quarterback for a few weeks because of an injury to Franklin. Oklahoma State has used both Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh at the position, but Chelf will get the start on Friday night. He’s thrown 15 touchdowns and six interceptions. Walsh has thrown just three passes since losing the job in mid-October.
"Any time you can play an SEC team, you want to do it. They're obviously regarded as the top conference," Chelf said. "Getting a shot at a team that was in the conference championship is a good challenge for us."
Betting Odds: Oklahoma State -1.5, 61
Prediction: Missouri 37, Oklahoma State 34