Cotton Bowl Staff Picks: Ohio State vs. Missouri

No. 7 Ohio State will wrap up its 2023 season tonight in the Cotton Bowl against No. 9 Missouri.

There are plenty of intriguing storylines for the game, including the first career start for Buckeye QB Devin Brown, the opportunity for young receivers like Carnell Tate to take on a bigger role in the Ohio State offense, the matchup of Jim Knowles’ defense against a diverse and explosive Tigers offense, and more.

So will the Buckeyes end their season with a trophy, or head into the offseason on a two-game losing streak?

Here’s what our staffers think.

Tony Gerdeman

This is going to be the best offense the Ohio State defense has faced this year, as well as the most talented. Missouri receiver Luther Burden is one of the top playmakers in America, and running back Cody Shrader was the SEC’s best running back this year. Quarterback Brady Cook does what Ryan Day wants his quarterbacks to do — make the routine plays routinely. Cook will also run the ball if needed, so the Buckeyes will need to be prepared for that as well. It will be interesting to see how the OSU defense handles the constant motion in Missouri’s spread attack. If the defensive line can win at the point of attack, all of the motion before the snap will be negated. 

The Ohio State offense is a mystery right now because this is Devin Brown’s first career start at quarterback. Fortunately for him he’s had over three weeks practicing and preparing as the Buckeyes’ starter. The Missouri run defense has been up and down this year. They gave up 274 yards rushing to LSU — but half of that was to quarterback Jayden Daniels. Florida rushed for 261 yards on them, but they held Georgia to half that number. I expect the Buckeyes to be able to run the ball and TreVeyon Henderson should hit his usual home run at some point in the game. Everybody will be watching Brown, however, so let’s go ahead and predict a line of 18-of-27 for 235 yards with one touchdown, one interception, and 31 yards rushing with another score.

I think the Buckeyes are just as motivated as Missouri today, which is a very important factor in actually winning the game. This might just be the informal announcement that next season starts now.

Ohio State 31, Missouri 23

Ross Fulton

Expect OSU to have a run heavier game plan with Devin Brown, featuring plenty of GT Q bash and designed Q lead run plays.

The OSU defense will likely be more aggressive than the heavy dose of country cover 4 they used against Michigan, getting back to more man coverage.

Ohio State 26, Missouri 22

Marc Givler

I didn’t have a great feeling about this game when it was announced as I just wasn’t sure how Ohio State would respond to being “in” the playoff all season long and then having it all taken away in just a few hours. But I’ve seen a level of “buy in” that I don’t think I’ve seen out of this program in recent years when it comes to non-playoff bowl games. There have been a lot of surprising opt-ins from my point of view and the players seem genuinely focused on ending the season on a high note and perhaps kickstarting the off-season with some good news on the NFL early entry front.

Missouri presents a lot of challenges offensively. They are very good at quarterback and running back and I think they are elite at wide receiver. I could see this being a similar game to the Rose Bowl a few years ago where we see a lot of action and great offense but I think this Ohio State team has far fewer concerns on defense than that group and will pull out a close one on Friday night.

Ohio State 34 Missouri 31

Kevin Noon

I took this one until the final moment, I waited until the day of the game to write it out.

Sure, I had thoughts from the moment that the game was announced, I have even had a score for a couple of days.

But I needed to know who was playing, or at least who we thought was playing.

In a vacuum, Ohio State is the more talented team from 1-22 and 1-85. Missouri has everything to play for, however. It has been a while since Missouri has been able to win a game like this one, even playing in the SEC. They are not just some middling program anymore under Eli Drinkwitz and a win here would be a ticket towards legitimacy in the eyes of the doubters.

The more I talked to Ohio State over the bowl week however, I saw that the Buckeyes feel that they have something to prove as well. When does an 11-win team lose its quarterback to the portal? How much do three straight losses to Michigan start to really seep into the Earth and spoil the crops?

This is an Ohio State team that is very motivated to be here, Ohio State may need this game more than Missouri does, or at least I am convincing myself of that.

I really like the over in this game because bowl games can get into that spot with talented teams. I think we see several haymakers thrown but Ohio has better farmers for making hay than Missouri does and to go back to the start of this, Ohio State is the better team, even without Marvin Harrison Jr. and Tommy Eichenberg. 

Ohio State 35, Missouri 27

Tom Orr

This is a weird game where the actual result on the scoreboard might not matter to the fanbase as much as the performance of one particular player.

Devin Brown has a chance to completely reshape the narrative around the Ohio State quarterback position heading into 2024 with a strong performance.

Missouri isn’t playing a running back at cornerback like Utah did in the 2022 Rose Bowl, so don’t expect him to rewrite the record books like CJ Stroud did that day. But if Brown can put together a solid performance through the air and perhaps offer a glimpse at what a more mobile triggerman could bring to the offense, it would offer a big boost to the morale of OSU fans heading into the offseason.

I’m expecting a solid performance – something in the neighborhood of 20-for-30 for 250 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, with maybe 30-40 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Is that enough to get Buckeye fans excited? I don’t know, but it will likely be enough to get them a trophy.

Ohio State 28, Missouri 24

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Posted by
Tom Orr

Writer, Photographer, Host of "Buckeye Weekly" and "Buckeyes TomOrrow Morning" podcasts