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Missouri motivated for Cotton Bowl test against Ohio State


Even though Ohio State is ranked higher and has more wins than No. 9 Missouri, the seventh-ranked Buckeyes also have uncertainty entering Friday’s Cotton Bowl matchup in Arlington, Texas.

The Buckeyes (11-1) were still reeling from a third straight loss to bitter rival Michigan, 30-24, on Nov. 25, when two days later starting quarterback Kyle McCord announced he would enter the transfer portal. He committed to Syracuse on Dec. 17.

Missouri hopes to take advantage of Ohio State redshirt freshman quarterback Devin Brown’s inexperience. While McCord completed 229 of 348 passes (65.8 percent) for 3,170 yards, 24 touchdowns and six interceptions, Brown was hampered by an ankle injury and threw just 22 passes, completing 12 for 197 yards, two TDs and one pick.

“He hasn’t played a lot of games, so he hasn’t seen a lot of different looks, a lot of different disguise coverages,” Missouri defensive lineman Jayden Jernigan said of Brown. “So, it may be more difficult for him just because he hasn’t had the experience.”

Ohio State coach Ryan Day has confidence in Brown.

“The first thing you notice is his command of the huddle, his command of the offense,” Day said. “He’s done a nice job of that. He has a charisma about him that I think the guys appreciate.”

McCord joined 13 other Buckeyes in the portal, including backup running back Chip Trayanum and receiver Julian Fleming.

Adding to the upheaval, receiver Marvin Harrison Jr, who finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting earlier this month and is projected to be a high first-round pick, is undecided if he will play. The same goes for starting running back TreVeyon Henderson, defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau and tight end Cade Stover.

However, all of them were in Texas for the pre-bowl practices.

Day said that he’s focused on the game and not questions surrounding the availability of players.

“I’ve allowed those guys to kind of do their own thing; I don’t want to put their stuff out there,” he said. “But we’ve got a good group playing in the game. We do.”

Missouri (10-2) expects a full roster for the game.

“We didn’t have any opt-outs,” Tigers coach Eli Drinkwitz said. “Our brotherhood is wanting to play this one final game, this one opportunity together.”

Receiver Theo Wease said the Tigers are motivated to beat the Buckeyes.

“It would mean everything, just being an 11-win season, that’s a great season,” he said. “They’re a very respected opponent around the country. It’s going to be a good test.

“Our team is still hungry. I definitely think it’s a group of guys that aren’t satisfied at all.”

Brady Cook threw for 3,189 yards and 20 touchdowns against six interceptions and Cody Schrader rushed for 1,499 yards and 13 touchdowns. Missouri averages 34.1 points per game and allows 22.3 points.

Even though the Buckeyes are disappointed in not making the College Football Playoff for a second straight season, there is still plenty at stake for the proud Big Ten program.

“We want to finish this season and have something to show for it,” Ohio State cornerback Denzel Burke said. “Our job is to go out, have fun, compete and win the game.”

–Field Level Media

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