Cotton Bowl: Missouri vs. Ohio State Expert Pick and Prediction – December 29, 2023
COTTON BOWL: MISSOURI VS. OHIO STATE EXPERT PICK AND PREDICTION – December 29, 2023 — Whether they know it or not, Missouri’s carrying the flag for the SEC here, more so than any other program save Alabama. Georgia’s so used to success that “only” making a New Year’s Six bowl is seen as a disappointment in Athens, so there’s an excuse ready to go if the Dawgs don’t show up. Not so with the Tigers, who are most decidedly not a blue blood football program.
And that’s why Missouri’s carrying the flag for the SEC: the Tigers’ presence in this game is seen as more of an indictment of the SEC’s strength than a testament to their own strength. Plus, they’re facing an Ohio State squad that truly is football royalty. A win here would legitimize Missouri and the 2023 SEC as nothing else could, while handing the Big Ten another setback.
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In truth, the narrative’s a bit overblown, given that Ohio State’s playing with a new quarterback. Coach Ryan Day didn’t exactly give Devin Brown a ringing endorsement, saying that he’s the Buckeyes’ quarterback “as of right now”, and Brown likely will face Missouri without his two best receivers.
That’s far from ideal, because Missouri led the SEC in turnover margin with 18 takeaways and a plus-9 margin for the year. Whether or not you buy the idea that the SEC was down in 2023, the league still turned out good defenses in Georgia and Alabama. An opportunistic Missouri defense isn’t what Ohio State needs to see right now, which means an upset could be building.
(10-2 SU, 8-4 ATS)
(11-1 SU, 6-5-1 ATS)
When: Friday, December 29th at 8 p.m. EST
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Public Bets: 53% on Missouri
Public Money: 76% on Missouri
Odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of December 26th, 2023.
Missouri vs. Ohio State In-Season Trends
Something has to give here, as Missouri was an over team while Ohio State was under-heavy. Ironically, the Buckeyes had two of their three overs against two of the top defenses in the Big Ten in Michigan and Rutgers. Even that was because of defense, though; Ohio State’s interception return for a score against the Scarlet Knights was the thing that pushed that game over.
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Missouri might be an over team, but it’s a second-half team. The Tigers have played to the under in the first half in five consecutive games, usually easing their way into the game before they make a move. Against really good teams like Georgia, the move didn’t come; the Tigers simply fell prey to a better team after battling to a draw for a half.
At 56 degrees on Friday, it’s iffy as to whether or not the roof of AT&T Stadium will open up. It’s theoretically possible, but it’s probably more likely that the teams will play this game indoors.
Most likely, Brady Cook needs to let Cody Schrader take control of this game. Schrader does much of the work for Missouri anyway as an All-American running back, and trying to pass on Ohio State is usually a mistake. Only four games saw Schrader go under 100 yards, and they didn’t come against the best defenses. Schrader also has a nine-game streak with at least one touchdown.
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Brown has to protect the ball against the Missouri defense. With 35 sacks and 18 takeaways, the Tigers can force Brown into mistakes if he forces the issue. Ohio State’s signal caller has to take a step back and not try to win the game by himself.
I really don’t trust Brown in this game. Missouri’s defense is still mostly in one piece, and Ohio State’s offense isn’t at full strength. This game reads more like Missouri taking its time to get into the game before showing that it can take Ohio State’s punches and stand its ground.
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I’m not sure the Tigers win the game, but I like them to keep this tight. However, I think the best play is the first half staying under the total.
First Half Under 24.5