The Missouri Tigers (11-2) and the Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-2) are set to square off Friday in the 78th Cotton Bowl Classic from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST and the game will be televised on FOX.
Here are a couple of things to keep an eye on throughout the game…
Missouri’s running game has been on a roll of late. The Tigers have topped 200 yards rushing in five consecutive games, including 231 yards on the ground in the SEC Championship game against Auburn.
Junior Henry Josey spearheads the Tigers’ rushing attack, which has three players with at least 500 yards on the ground. Josey has rushed for 1,074 yards on the season, to go along with 13 rushing touchdowns. Russell Hansborough (660 yards, four touchdowns) and Marcus Murphy (571 yards, nine touchdowns) are great second options for a rushing offense that ranked 16th nationally.
After a slow start to the season, the Oklahoma State running game has hit its stride, averaging 207.5 yards per game in the past six games after averaging just 136.5 yards per game in the first six games of the season. A big reason for the turnaround has been the play of running back Desmond Roland, who has 745 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns on the season.
Whichever team can control the ground game could have a big say in who comes away with a win.
Oklahoma State and Missouri are fourth and fifth in the NCAA in turnover margin, respectively. Needless to say, a big part of each team’s success is the ability to force the turnover and protect the ball.
Missouri has forced at least one turnover in 43 straight games, the longest current streak in the nation. The Tigers have 18 interceptions and 11 fumble recoveries on the season. Missouri has only lost 13 turnovers all season and had four games in which they did not turn the ball over at all.
Oklahoma State has 20 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries on the season. The Cowboys have just 15 turnovers lost (four fumbles, 11 interceptions) on the year, which is tied for 13th nationally.
Oklahoma State has an 8-2 record when they win the turnover battle, compared to Missouri which is 7-2 when they win the turnover battle, therefore it goes without saying that turnover margin could play an important role in determining the outcome of the game.