It will have been nearly a month since these two teams last played, as Missouri lost 59-42 to Auburn in the SEC Championship, while Oklahoma State missed out on a Big 12 title with a 33-24 loss to in-state rival Oklahoma.
Missouri and Oklahoma State are familiar with each other from their days as long-time conference mates prior to 2012 when Missouri moved to the SEC. In addition, the two coaching staffs know each other very well, and the two programs have often recruited the same players.
“Oklahoma State is a real talented team,” said Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel. “Their quarterback is a great player. They have a good offensive scheme. Good defense. You know, they’re ten and two. They play in a real good league. And, it’s a great game! I mean, you talk about an eleven and two team, a ten and two team. You know, obviously, we know each other, you know, somewhat. They have a real good program, and it’s going to be, I think, a great bowl game.”
Oklahoma State employs multiple offensive sets and personnel packages, including various spread formations. The Cowboys like to run out of a diamond formation that features a fullback and an H-back, including 5’10” 236-pound senior Kye Staley, and 6’2” 250-pound sophomore Jeremy Seaton, who will also line up on the line of scrimmage as a tight end. Staley rarely carries the football. However, the Cowboys have given him the football in short yardage situations or on the goal line. Seaton is kind of a short-yardage receiver, as well, but rarely catches the football outside of the red zone. They’re primarily in there to block, and to create a numbers advantage at the point of attack.
Speaking of numbers advantage, the Cowboys’ offensive line is huge, averaging 6’5” and 325 pounds across the starting unit. This is a relatively young unit that began the season somewhat inexperienced, but a unit that has improved greatly throughout the season.
In-season improvement is descriptive of Oklahoma State as a whole, but probably most applicable at the quarterback position, where 6’1” 210-pound senior Clint Chelf came on near mid-season and took over the starting QB job. On the season, Chelf was 131-234-6 (56%) for 1792 yards and 15 TDs passing, for a passer efficiency rating of 136.34, and he also rushed for 321 yards (6.1 yards/carry) and 6 TDs on 53 carries. In addition to the mid-season change at QB, Oklahoma State also decreased their offensive tempo, and the Cowboys have found that operating at a little less frenzied pace has been a little more effective. On the season, Oklahoma State averaged 74 plays/game, and 5.9 yards/play from the line of scrimmage.
On the season, Oklahoma State ran the football on 52% of their offensive plays, which provides the Cowboys with a balanced offensive approach. It’s critical for Oklahoma State that they have success running the football behind that big line and those extra blocking backs.
The Cowboys rely primarily on two running backs to carry the football, including 6’2” 210-pound junior Desmond Roland, who has run for 745 yards and 12 TDs on 160 carries (4.7 yards/carry), and 5’10” 208-pound senior Jeremy Smith, who has rushed for 442 yards and 9 TDs on 115 carries (3.8 yards/carry). In addition, Roland has averaged 10 yards/reception on his 8 receptions on the season. He’s also scored on 3 of those 8 receptions, so he’s a big-bodied, big-play threat out of the backfield.
Chelf and the Cowboys throw the football on 48% of their offensive plays. And, the senior QB has some talented receiving targets, including 5’10” 185-pound junior Josh Stewart, who leads Oklahoma State with 52 receptions for 623 yards and 2 TDs. As a sophomore in 2012, Stewart had 101 receptions for 1210 yards, and is one of Oklahoma State's all-time leading receivers. The always dangerous Stewart also averages 18.2 yards/punt return, and he has taken a pair of punt returns to the house.
With 44 receptions for 638 yards and 6 TDs, 6’2” 215-pound senior Tracy Moore is a big-play receiver. And, 6’2” 185-pound RSF Jhajuan Seales (36 receptions, 529 yards, 2 TDs) and 6’2” 202-pound senior Charlie Moore (31 receptions, 415 yards, 5 TDs) round out the starting unit when Coach Mike Gundy utilizes four wide-outs.
From a schematic standpoint, Oklahoma State’s defense is very similar to Missouri’s. The Cowboys play a 4-3-4, and their base alignment is almost identical to Missouri’s 4-3-4. On the season, Oklahoma State has held opponents to an average of 4.7 yards/play. They’re well-coached, and disciplined in executing their assignments.
Another way that Oklahoma State is similar to Missouri defensively is in forcing turnovers. The Cowboys have 20 interceptions on the season, and have recovered 10 fumbles. Oklahoma State ranks 4th nationally (+1.3), and Missouri ranks 6th nationally(+1.2), in turnover margin. And, Oklahoma State has been credited with 89 tackles-for-loss on the season, including 23 sacks. So, they’re creating havoc for opposing offenses, and coming up with negative plays and turnovers.
“Oklahoma State’s defensive ends are relentless pass rushers,” said Missouri Offensive Coordinator Josh Henson. “Inside, they’ve got some talented guys…………………………………….. Their secondary is one of the better secondaries that we’ve seen all season, as far as their coverage ability. They’re good! They can cover. They make plays on the ball. They go up and attack the football when it’s in the air.”
While Oklahoma State gets a good pass rush from their defensive front, they create a lot of pressure by blitzing, and they’ll come from just about anywhere.
Up front, the Cowboys feature 6’1” 245-pound senior DE Tyler Johnson, whose 4.5 sacks leads the Cowboys. On the season, Johnson has 47 total tackles, including 9.5 tackles-for-loss, in addition to 4 quarterback hurries, a pass break up, 3 forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. On the other side, 6’5” 245-pound sophomore Jimmy Bean (27 tackles, 6.5 TFLs, 4 sacks, 3 QBHs) will probably get the start. The Cowboys rotate a handful of players in at defensive end.
On the inside, 6’2” 300-pound senior DT Calvin Barnett (26 tackles, 4 TFLs, 2 sacks, 5 QBHs, 1 PBU, 1 forced fumble) is a factor, as is 6’2” 296-pound junior DT James Castleman (31 tackles, 5 TFLs, 1 sack, 1 PBU, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, and 2 blocked kicks).
The Oklahoma State linebackers are among their team leaders in tackles, tackles-for-loss, interceptions, and forced fumbles. It would be an understatement to say that they are very active. The Cowboys’ leading tackler is 6’3” 235-pound senior MLB Caleb Lavey, who on the season has made 87 total tackles, including a team-leading 12.5 TFLs, to go along with 2.5 sacks, 4 interceptions, 1 PBU, 3 forced fumbles, and 1 fumble recovery.
He’s joined at the linebacker position by 5’11” 225-pound senior SLB Shaun Lewis, who on the season has 68 total tackles, 9 TFLs, 1 sack, 1 QBH, 3 PBUs, 3 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries, and 6’0” 242-pound sophomore WLB Ryan Simmons, another very productive player who on the season has made 62 total tackles, including 9.5 TFLs, and 1 sack, to go along with 3 QBHs, 2 PBUs, and 1 INT.
The Cowboys’ second-leading tackler on the season is 5’11” 205-pound senior free safety Daytawion Lowe, who on the season has made 80 total tackles, including 2 TFLs, to go along with 4 PBUs, 2 INTs, and a forced fumble.
The Cowboys’ veteran secondary may be the best part of their defense, and they have the depth of talent to be able to rotate a number of players onto the field. A pair of strong safeties have played extensively, and they’ve both been very productive, including 6’3” 215-pound junior Lyndell Johnson (49 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, 2 QBHs, 3 PBUs, 2 fumble recoveries), and 6’0” 210-pound senior Shamiel Gary (46 tackles, 2 TFLs, 9 PBUs).
Oklahoma State has one of the best corners in the country in 6’0” 200-pound senior Justin Gilbert, who has 6 INTs on the season, in addition to 40 tackles, 7 PBUs, and 1 QBH. In addition, Gilbert has averaged 26.6 yards/kick return as the Cowboys’ primary kick returner, and he’s returned 2 of his INTs for TDs. Gilbert is expected to be a 1st-round pick in this spring’s NFL Draft, and he’s certainly in the same class as some of the top corners Missouri has faced this season, including the Tigers’ own E.J. Gaines.
Earlier this week, Oklahoma State Head Coach Mike Gundy cited the leadership that 28 seniors provide for the Cowboys.
“These 28 guys have accomplished a lot,” said Coach Gundy, speaking of the Cowboys’ senior class. “Their leadership and the way they have handled themselves and what they are passing on to the younger group is very special. After last year’s group I wasn’t sure I would be able to say that starting out, but this group has been terrific. They mean a lot to Oklahoma State football and they mean a lot to our coaching staff. I could not be any more proud of the work ethic and what they stand for. They play the game with a smile on their face. They are humble and unselfish, and I think that goes a long way in our sport today. And, I am proud of the way they have handled themselves.” Comparative Statistics
(NCAA Ranking in Parentheses)
MIZZOU_________ CATEGORY_________ OSU
492.9 (16)_________Total Offense________440.5 (41)
236.5 (17)________Rushing Offense______172.0 (65)
256.5 (40)________ Passing Offense______268.5 (32)
150.01 (26)_______Pass Efficiency _______134.62 (52)
39.0 (15)_________Scoring Offense________39.8 (14)
407.7 (69)_________Total Defense________378.5 (46)
151.8 (47)________Rushing Defense______132.9 (T-22)
255.8 (98)______Passing Yds. Allowed_____245.6 (86)
121.41 (44)____Pass Efficiency Defense____106.65 (9)
22.5 (29)________Scoring Defense________20.0 (14)
1.2 (6)__________Turnover Margin________1.3 (T-4)
0.449 (34)______3rd Down Conv. Pct_____0.385 (T-78)
0.643 (T-19)____4th Down Conv. Pct______0.400 (T-96)
0.374 (49)_______3rd Conv Pct.Def. _______0.313 (7)
0.867 (35)_______Red Zone Offense_______0.883 (27)
0.841 (69)_______Red Zone Defense_______0.683 (5)
36.87 (64)_________Net Punting__________35.27 (99)
5.55 (98)_________Punt Returns__________14.33 (T-9)
23.15 (29)_______Kickoff Returns_________23.42 (25)
314 (12)_______First Downs Offense_______261 (T-58)
271 (T-96)_____First Downs Defense_______258 (T-73)
5.23 (50)______Fewest Penalties / Gm. _____6.42 (T-91)
29:49 (63)______Time of Possession________26:39 (116)