COLUMBUS — After finishing 11-1 but missing out on a spot in the final edition of the four-team College Football Playoff (CFP), No. 7 Ohio State will now head to Dallas, Texas on Dec. 29 to take on the Missouri Tigers in the 2023 Goodyear Cotton Bowl.
It will be the third all-time appearance in the Cotton Bowl for the Buckeyes, who defeated USC in its most recent trip to Dallas in 2017. Ohio State and Missouri have met 12 times with the last meetings coming in a home-and-home series in 1997-98 while Missouri was still a member of the Big 12 Conference.
Missouri finished second in the SEC East Division with a 10-2 record, losing only to LSU and Georgia. Its place in the 2023 Cotton Bowl represents the first time Missouri will have played in a New Year’s Six game in the CFP era.
While Ohio State fell short of playing for a national title, the matchup with Missouri will offer an opportunity to cut into its poor record against SEC teams in bowl games. Since losing to Alabama in the 1978 Sugar Bowl in its first-ever bowl game against an SEC opponent, Ohio State is just 2-12 in such games and has lost its last two dating back to the 2020 national championship game.
“It should be a good matchup,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said on Sunday. “They’re a really good team. (Head coach Eli Drinkwitz) has done a really good job putting that roster together, and the Cotton Bowl is a very good bowl … The hospitality is excellent there. I think the guys will enjoy the week down in Dallas.”
Missouri boasts an offense averaging 443 yards per game led by running back Cody Schrader, who rushed for 1,489 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. Against Georgia on Nov. 4, Schrader rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries against the vaunted Bulldogs defense.
Schrader is hardly the only weapon the Tigers will throw at the Ohio State defense. Quarterback Brady Cook has thrown for 3,189 yards on the season while enjoying a pair of receiving targets that will likely be the best duo the Buckeyes secondary has seen this season.
Luther Burden, a sophomore, put together one of the best seasons by any receiver in the country, amassing 1,197 yards and eight touchdowns on 83 catches.
Theo Wease Jr., an Oklahoma transfer, hauled in 45 catches for 639 yards and six touchdowns opposite Burden and gives Cook a larger target at 6-foot-2 than Burden’s smaller, 5-foot-11 frame.
On the other side of the ball, Missouri ranks 38th in the country in total defense, allowing 347 yards on average each game. Its 22 points-per-game average ranks the Tigers 42nd in the country in scoring defense.
While Missouri will represent a formidable challenge for Ohio State on the field, perhaps its biggest opponent will be itself following the disappointment of the season-ending loss to Michigan and the uncertainty surrounding the state of the roster and potential opt-outs from some of the Buckeyes’ best players.
Ohio State has recent experience in a similar scenario, and Day hopes his team will maximize the opportunity to both end the season on a high note and create some momentum heading into 2024.
“We had this situation a couple of years ago in the Rose Bowl, and it did build some momentum into the next year,” Day said. “We always want to be playing for a championship this time of year, but we’re going to finish and do things the right way. Bowl practice is an opportunity for some of the younger guys to get out there, almost like a spring practice, and continue to develop. But we’re going to finish this thing the right way.”
As for who will or won’t be available to play for the Buckeyes, Day said there will be a team meeting on Sunday evening to discuss the schedule for Cotton Bowl preparation. Part of those discussions will include players with decisions to make about whether or not to play, and Day said those discussions will continue over the next couple of days as he gets a better of idea of who he can expect to have in the game.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.