Cotton Bowl: Almost conference champs get shot at bowl glory

Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-2) vs. Missouri Tigers (11-2)
Friday, Jan. 3, 7:30 p.m. EST, FOX
Line: Missouri by 3.5

How Oklahoma State got here: The Cowboys enjoyed another solid season, but can anyone explain how they lost at West Virginia in September? OSU had the Big 12 title within its grasp after crushing previously unbeaten Baylor 49-17. Then rival Oklahoma came to town and walked away with a 33-24 win.  Mike Gundy’s squad did beat two other ranked opponents — Texas Tech (52-34) and Texas (38-13).

How Missouri got here: The Tigers got shut out of a BCS bowl, but give them credit for winning the SEC East and making the conference championship game in just its second season. Missouri just missed an unbeaten regular season as its only blemish was a 27-24 double overtime loss to South Carolina. The Tigers did fall to Auburn 59-42 in the SEC title game, but they did knock off four ranked opponents — Georgia (41-26), Florida (36-17), Ole Miss (24-10) and Texas A&M (28-21).

For Oklahoma State to win: Oklahoma State needs to shake off the loss to Oklahoma and get the offense going and put up big numbers like it can. Clint Chelf is a big-time quarterback and the Cowboys could ride him to a nice win.

For Missouri to win: The Tigers defense must make big plays and create turnovers. Getting into a shootout like the SEC title game is not in Missouri’s best interest.

Key Player (Oklahoma State): Justin Gilbert, CB. A future NFL player, Gilbert has six interceptions and returned two of those for touchdowns. He’s going to be asked to shut down some big and tough Missouri receivers. We’ll learn a lot about him in this game, but OSU needs him to have a big game.

Key Player (Missouri): James Franklin, QB. Franklin missed four games in the middle of the season with an injury, including the loss to South Carolina. He had a solid season with 19 touchdown passes and 2,255 passing yards. The senior would love to have one more big game.

Key Stat: Three straight. That’s how many bowl games Oklahoma State has covered the spread.