Mizzou, Ohio State set for 1st meeting since ‘98

Missouri defensive back Sidney Williams (3) sacks Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson, right,during the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 24, 2023, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
Missouri defensive back Sidney Williams (3) sacks Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson, right,during the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 24, 2023, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Missouri is headed to its first New Year's Six bowl game in the 10 seasons since the four-team playoff began and will play No. 7 Ohio State, which has never missed one. They meet in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29.

The ninth-ranked Tigers (10-2) have 10 wins for the first time since 2014, when they won the Citrus Bowl in the first season of the College Football Playoff, a year after winning in their last Cotton Bowl appearance. They were 6-7 in each of the past two seasons, both ending with bowl losses.

"In my wildest dreams, I don't know that I ever thought about being able to coach in the Cotton Bowl vs. Ohio State," fourth-year Missouri Coach Eli Drinkwitz said. "So it's something that I'm going to be very, very present in, and really enjoy the moment."

Drinkwitz said the Tigers seniors have been through a lot, and that a 10-win season with a NY6 game is a reminder that all the hard work, dedication and hard practices were worth it.

The only loss for the Buckeyes (11-1) was 30-24 in their regular-season finale against Michigan, which won the Big Ten title and was the No. 1 team in the final CFP rankings released Sunday.

Ohio State played in the Orange Bowl on New Year's Day 2014, just over a year before ending the 2014 season with a win over Oregon in the first CFP Championship Game. That game was played at AT&T Stadium, the home of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys and the Cotton Bowl.

Ohio State has a 10-1-1 series record against Missouri, but is 2-12 against SEC teams in bowl games. That includes last year's 42-41 loss to Georgia in the CFP semifinal Peach Bowl.

The Buckeyes and Tigers haven't played since 1998, when Ohio State won 35-14 at home. This will be their first postseason meeting.

"They play a tough schedule in the SEC. So they've got to bring it every week and have some really good wins this year against Tennessee, Kentucky and South Carolina," Ohio State Coach Ryan Day said. "We know they're a very good team, any time you're playing that type of schedule and winning like they are. ... But that's what you expect when you get into a bowl game like this."

CATCHING THE BALL

Ohio State standout junior Marvin Harrison Jr. and Missouri sophomore Luther Burden are two of the nation's leading receivers.

The 6-4 Harrison has 67 catches for 1,211 yards and is tied second nationally with his 14 touchdowns. He is averaging 100.9 yards per game receiving, which ranks ninth.

Burden is 10th at 99.8 yards per game, only three total yards from a triple-digit average. He has 83 catches for 1,197 yards and 8 touchdowns.

WALK-ON TO TOP RUSHER

Former walk-on Cody Schrader, a super senior who began his career at Division II Truman State, is now the nation's leading rusher for Missouri.

Schrader averages 124.9 yards per game, nearly 30 yards more than any other SEC player, while running for 1,499 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has TDs in nine consecutive games, and his fifth consecutive 100-yard game was a season-high 217 in the regular-season finale at Arkansas.

He joins Oklahoma State's Ollie Gordon II and North Carolina's Omarion Hampton as finalists for the Doak Walker Award that goes to the top running back. Gordon led the nation in rushing before being limited to 34 yards on 13 carries against Texas in the Big 12 championship game Saturday, dropping his season average to 124.2.

RISING TIGERS

Missouri has won its last three games since a 30-21 loss at then-No. 1 Georgia, the only team to finish ahead of the Tigers in the SEC East. They are 3-2 vs. Top 25 teams, the other loss being to then-No. 23 LSU.

The last time Missouri had been in the Top 10 was when being fifth in the final AP poll of the 2013 season, when the Tigers finished 12-2 after a 41-31 win over Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl.

  photo  Missouri tight end Brett Norfleet (87) scores a touchdown against Arkansas during the second half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 24, 2023, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
 
 
  photo  Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord throws during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Michigan, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
 
 
  photo  Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord throws a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Michigan, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (AP Photo/David Dermer)
 
 
  photo  Ohio State linebacker Steele Chambers and cornerback Davison Igbinosun, right, tackle Michigan running back Donovan Edwards during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (AP Photo/David Dermer)
 
 
  photo  Missouri running back Cody Schrader (7) celebrates next to the Battle Line trophy after the team's win over Arkansas in an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 24, 2023, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
 
 
  photo  Missouri tight end Brett Norfleet (87) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Arkansas during the second half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 24, 2023, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
 
 
  photo  Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord throws a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Michigan, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/David Dermer)
 
 
  photo  Ohio State defensive end JT Tuimoloau (44) and defensive lineman Kayden McDonald (56) watch the scoreboard during the closing minute of an NCAA college football game against Michigan, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
 
 
  photo  Missouri head coach Eliah Drinkwitz yells at his team to get back on the field to play one more down with a second on the clock during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Florida Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, in Columbia, Mo. Missouri won 33-31. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)