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2018 Bowl Coverage

Liberty Bowl First Look: Cowboys And Tigers Will Put Up Points

Both of these teams have been up and down this season. What do the stats say about who they are?

Getty Images - Ronald Martinez

Oklahoma State and Missouri face off in the Autozone Liberty Bowl on December 31st, but it’s never too early to start looking at how they compare via the numbers.

This is a matchup of two former Big 12 teams, and it’s fair to say that this game will probably look a lot like a Big 12 contest. Both of these teams can score and are fairly balanced offensively, ranking in the top quarter of the country in most offensive statistical categories.

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There are a lot of statistics that favor the Tigers in this one – they’re outscoring opponents by 12.5 points on average, compared to the six points managed by the Pokes.

Oklahoma State has the edge in a lot of offensive numbers, but Missouri appears to overall be the better defensive team when you look at many of these raw stats.

Where Missouri has a definite advantage is on third down conversion percentage on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Having favorable down-and-distance situations on third down will likely have a major impact on this contest.

So should turnovers. The Cowboys aren’t doing great in that category at minus-eight on the season. The Tigers are even there, but if the Pokes are somehow able to win the turnover battle, they’ll have a good shot at winning this contest.

That would help get the ball into the hands of the Pokes’ quick-score offense, which holds the ball for just over 27 minutes per game.

MATCHUP OSU MIZ
Points Per Game 38.4 36.9
Points Allowed/Game 32.4 24.4
Yards Per Game 500.0 468.8
Opp. Yards Per Game 437.1 379.0
Points Per Play .464 .456
Opp. Points Per Play .431 .361
Yards Per Play 6.1 5.9
Opp. Yards Per Play 5.8 5.5
3rd Down Conversion % 43.3 46.0
Opp. 3rd Down Conversion % 36.3 31.8
Turnovers Gained 12 14
Turnovers Lost 20 14
Average Time of Possession 27:14 30:31

Not that Missouri can’t put up points as well. Tigers quarterback Drew Lock might be the top prospect at his position in the 2019 NFL Draft, and he’s got the numbers to prove it. The senior has thrown for over 3,000 yards this year.

Even though Oklahoma State quarterback Taylor Cornelius doesn’t have the same kind of upside as his counterpart, the Pokes probably have an edge is in the overall skill talent that they possess.

Tylan Wallace was one of the best receivers in the Big 12 as a sophomore in 2018, and fellow wideout Tyron Johnson is averaging 15.3 yards per catch.

What will hurt Oklahoma State the most will be the absence of All-Big 12 running back Justice Hill, who announced earlier this month that he’d be sitting out the bowl game to prepare for a career in the NFL.

Hill had been banged up this season anyway, and missed the Pokes’ last two games with a rib injury.

Redshirt freshman Chuba Hubbard steps in as a replacement there, and he will hope to continue averaging 5.6 yards per carry in this bowl game.

PASS LEADERS C/ATT YDS AVG TD INT QB RATING
OSU – T. Cornelius 261/440 3,637 8.3 28 11 144.8
MIZ – D. Lock 252/399 3,125 7.8 25 8 145.6
RUSH LEADERS CAR YDS AVG TD
OSU– C. Hubbard 106 595 5.6 6
MIZ – L. Rountree III 198 1,023 5.1 10
RECEIVING LEADERS REC YDS AVG TD
OSU – T. Wallace 79 1,398 17.7 11
MIZ – E. Hall 35 756 21.6 6

Missouri had a fairly strong showing in the program’s third year under head coach Barry Odom, so there’s a lot of momentum on the Tigers’ side as they try to end 2018 with a win. Their defense in particular is improved over what they’d put on the field in 2017, so it makes sense that they’d be projected to win this one.

The line there is currently at 9.5 in favor of the Tigers, which probably speaks to the loss of Justice Hill on a team that has been very Jekyll and Hyde in 2018. That inconsistency makes you wonder which Oklahoma State team will show up in this bowl game, and which version of the Pokes have Odom’s boys been preparing to play?

We won’t have to wait too long for the answer. Oklahoma State and Missouri kickoff on New Year’s Eve at 2:45 p.m. in Memphis, TN.

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