The 2018 College Football bowl season has seen plenty of excellent match-ups including some from the SEC and Big 12. On New Year’s Eve afternoon former conference foes in Missouri (SEC) and Oklahoma State (Big 12) will meet. They’ll face each other for the first time since the 2014 Goodyear Cotton Bowl. Both the Tigers and the Cowboys have a high-power passing game and a formidable run game. Neither defense is great in terms of stopping opposing offenses from getting long yardage on them. They do each, however, have major leading categories that might be the game-deciding factor.
Elite Offenses Will Once Again Face Off
Missouri quarterback Drew Lock and Oklahoma State quarterback Taylor Cornelius will go back and forth in a potentially high-scoring game. The Tigers are 18th in the nation in points per game (36.9) and 18th in total offense (469 yards). Missouri has a quarterback Lock, who passed for 3,125 yards and 25 touchdowns on 252 completions (out of 399 attempts). The Tigers have an underrated rusher in Larry Rountree III, who rushed for 1,012 yards and 10 touchdowns on 198 rushes and averaging five yards per carry. Missouri is very efficient in getting first downs by ranking 20th in first-downs accounted for (293) and 17th in 3rd down conversions (46%). The offensive line has only given up 13 sacks throughout the season, which is tied-for 119th most in the nation.
Oklahoma State had a tough decision to make on figuring out who their starting quarterback would be through 2018. Former walk-on Cornelius has been a surprise for the Cowboys offense to keep them in the same high-velocity as the past few seasons. This season, Cornelius accounted for 261 completions (out of 440 attempts) for 3,637 yards, averaging 8.3 yards per pass, 28 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and also 10 rushing touchdowns. Receiver Tylan Wallace is also an underrated difference maker in this game. This season, Wallace caught 79 receptions for 1,393 yards (average of 17.7 yards per reception) and 11 touchdowns. Wallace’s impact is 37.9% of the Cowboys passing offense, Cornelius will need more options against Missouri. The Cowboys have been without their star offensive player in running back Justice Hill with a rib injury. Without Hill, senior Cornelius will need to lead his offense over Missouri’s talented defense.
The Defense Might Ultimately Decide Liberty Bowl Match-up
The Tigers’ defense ties for 44th in points allowed per game (24.4) and is 16th in defensive efficiency (77.1). Missouri’s passing defense, however, is one of the worst in the SEC as they allow an average of 256.1 passing yards per game (109th in the nation). This Tigers’ defense allows a potentially explosive combination of Cornelius and Wallace. This is a combination that Missouri’s defense will try to avoid by setting up a double coverage on Wallace. Oklahoma State needs to have another receiver take the bulk of the receptions to set up the running game. If the Cowboys want to pass more, receiver Tyron Johnson or receiver Dillon Stoner are the best options. Missouri’s defense doubling down on Wallace might ultimately lead the Tigers taking away an extra pass rusher consistently.
Oklahoma’s defense, similarly like fellow Big 12 defenses, are highly inefficient and unstable. The Cowboys’ defense ties for 97th in the nation in points allowed per game (32.4). They also rank 80th in defensive efficiency (45.8). The Cowboys’ defense possesses great pass rushers and can get to the opposing quarterback. They rank tied for 6th in total sacks accounted for 39 sacks throughout the season. This bowl game will contain a great match-up of a pass rush heavy defensive line of the Cowboys and the efficient Tigers offensive line. Cowboys defensive end Jordan Brailford has accounted for 17 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. This high-power Missouri offense can get the edge over Oklahoma State throughout the game by containing the defensive line. Tigers tight end Albert Okwuegbunam could be the difference maker if Missouri needs a quick drop off.