(AP) – Missouri and Oklahoma State had visions of winning conference championships and earning berths in BCS bowls as they headed into the final Saturday of the regular season.
That didn’t happen for either team, so the No. 9 Tigers and 13th-ranked Cowboys will instead renew their rivalry and meet for the 52nd time Friday night at the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas.
The Tigers (11-2) were ranked fifth when they took on then-No. 3 Auburn in the SEC championship game Dec. 7. The contest turned into a shootout, with Auburn leading 45-42 after three quarters. Missouri, however, failed to score again and lost 59-42, handing Auburn a spot in the BCS championship game against No. 1 Florida State.
The Cowboys (10-2) entered their matchup that same day against then-No. 18 Oklahoma as the sixth-ranked team in the nation, and they led 24-20 with 1:46 remaining. The Sooners, though, scored with 19 seconds left and added a fumble return for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff to come away with a 33-24 win.
Later in the day, Baylor beat Texas 30-10 to clinch the Big 12 title and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl against No. 15 Central Florida.
“It was an upsetting loss but we can’t dwell on it. It’s the past,” Oklahoma State senior running back Kye Staley said. “We didn’t even watch film, we just go on to the next team. We’re very excited to play Missouri, an SEC team, in Dallas. We have a lot of Texas kids that probably dreamed of playing there, so it’s going to be a fun, exciting time. Just move forward, you can’t look behind you.”
Missouri, which went 7-1 in its second season in the SEC to win the East Division, is also looking forward to playing at the home of the Dallas Cowboys.
“We know firsthand just how great of a trip this is, and how first-class of an operation the Cotton Bowl runs,” said Gary Pinkel, who is taking the Tigers to their ninth bowl in 13 seasons as coach, including a 38-7 win over Arkansas in the 2007 Cotton Bowl.
Oklahoma State last played in the Cotton Bowl in 2009, when it lost 21-7 to Mississippi.
Those appearances for the Tigers and Cowboys came when they were both members of the Big 12. Oklahoma State and Missouri were also in the old Big Eight Conference together before both moved to the Big 12 in 1996.
The Tigers have a 28-23 lead in a series that dates to 1915 and took five of nine Big 12 meetings from 1996-2011, though Oklahoma State won the last three.
“I don’t know if it seems weird (playing Missouri),” Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. “We are still familiar with them. We played them so many years in a row and have watched them play. They’re very similar to the way they were.”
Oklahoma State and Missouri are two of the top scoring teams in the FBS, with the Cowboys ranking 14th with 39.8 points per game and the Tigers right behind them in 15th with an average of 39.0.
The Tigers are 16th in the country with 492.9 total yards per game, while Oklahoma State’s average of 440.5 ranks 41st.
Junior running back Henry Josey leads the way with 1,074 yards and 13 touchdowns for a Missouri team that is 15th in the nation with 3,074 rushing yards.
Senior quarterback James Franklin is back after missing four games in the middle of the season with a separated shoulder. Franklin has passed for 2,255 yards with 19 TDs and five interceptions while rushing for 474 yards and four scores.
Senior L’Damian Washington and sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham have combined for 1,683 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns.
“Offensively they have great speed,” Gundy said. “They’re tall and rangy at the wideout position. The quarterbacks are playing good, running backs make plays.”
Gundy’s team also needs to pay attention to Missouri senior defensive end Michael Sam, named AP first-team All-America and SEC defensive player of the year after ranking among the national leaders with 10 1/2 sacks and 18 tackles for loss.
“We watched him on film and he’s going to be tough for our tackles,” junior offensive lineman Jake Jenkins said. “I think it will be interesting to watch him and see how we perform against him.”
Oklahoma State has a star defensive player of its own in senior cornerback Justin Gilbert, who was named AP second-team All-America and one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award presented to the top defensive back in college football. Gilbert is tied for fourth in the nation with six interceptions, returning two for touchdowns.
Offensively, senior Clint Chelf has taken over as the starting quarterback after sophomore J.W. Walsh earned the job early in the season. Chelf has appeared in 11 games, passing for 1,792 yards with 15 TDs and six INTs.
He’s third on the team with 321 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
“Any time you can play an SEC team, you want to do it. They’re obviously regarded as the top conference,” Chelf said. “Getting a shot at a team that was in the conference championship is a good challenge for us.”
Pinkel, looking for his 102nd win at Missouri to break a tie with Don Faurot for the most in school history, hopes the familiarity with Oklahoma State helps the Tigers post the second 12-win season in program history.
The first came with the victory over the Razorbacks in the 2007 Cotton Bowl.
“It’s funny how things have flipped,” Pinkel said. “We go from the Big 12 and play against Arkansas last time, now we’re a member of the SEC and we’re playing a member of the Big 12. They’re 10-2, we’re 11-2. We’re playing a really, really good football team and it will be a challenge for us.”
Oklahoma State is going for at least 11 wins for the third time in four seasons. The Cowboys never won more than 10 games before Gundy took over in 2005.