Liberty Bowl: Final pregame thoughts and predictions from The Maneater staff
Missouri kicks off against Oklahoma State at 2:45 p.m. CST New Year's Eve.
Dec. 31, 2018
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Missouri’s month off is finally over. It’s Liberty Bowl Day.
Missouri (8-4) kicks off against Oklahoma State (6-6) in the 60th Liberty Bowl at 2:45 p.m. CST Monday in Memphis. Here are the final pregame thoughts and a prediction from each of The Maneater’s football writers.
Missouri will finish its season after a long layoff with a late bowl game, but that shouldn’t be a problem for the Tigers. Yesterday, coach Barry Odom said that motivation hasn’t been an issue at all in bowl prep and stars Drew Lock and Terry Beckner were adamant about playing rather than skipping the game to prepare for the NFL Draft.
The biggest question for Missouri is which Oklahoma State offense will show up. The Cowboys took Oklahoma down to the wire and hung 47 points on the Sooners in a 1-point loss this season. They also managed only 12 in a blowout loss to a Kansas State (5-7). If the best version of Oklahoma State shows up, Missouri will be in for a Big-12 style high-scorer. If not, MU is the team capable of a blowout.
Even without tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, the MU offense should be good to go against a poor Oklahoma State defense. Teams have been able to beat the Cowboys in the vertical passing game, so look for Emanuel Hall to end his Missouri career with a big game. My pick: Missouri 45, Oklahoma State 34.
Missouri is a tested, well-oiled offensive machine at this point, with a lot of weapons at running back and receiver – but a shootout would be the Tigers’ worst-case scenario against Oklahoma State. That’s the only way the Cowboys should be able keep up with what their coach, Mike Gundy, called the most well-rounded opponent they have been matched up with this season. Keep in mind, this is an Oklahoma State team that has played Oklahoma, West Virginia, Texas and Boise State.
So yes, quarterback Drew Lock should have the reins to carry the Missouri offense when necessary, but the factors that could really put MU over the top are the run game and defense. With Damarea Crockett back from a late-season injury, the three-headed monster at tailback – Crockett, Larry Rountree III and Tyler Badie – is at the Liberty Bowl in full force. The three need to combine for at least 150 yards rushing. The Tigers also need to intercept Oklahoma State quarterback Taylor Cornelius at least once. You should be able to count on Lock not turning it over against the Oklahoma State secondary.
Aside from Okwuegbunam, this is about the healthiest Missouri has been all season. The Tigers would be more than 8-4 in any conference other than the SEC, and that will show in this contest. My pick: Missouri 48, Oklahoma State 31.
Watching Missouri’s multi-faceted offense has had to be refreshing for long-time fans, and it likely means that yes, there will be a lot of scoring in the Liberty Bowl. Oklahoma State comes into the game after averaging 306.7 yards per game through the air and just under 500 total yards per game.
It’s hard to think the Tigers won’t finish out the season with a win over a 6-6 Big 12 team that lost to Kansas State, Baylor and Texas Tech earlier this season. My pick: Missouri 38, Oklahoma State 24.
Edited by Emily Leiker | firstname.lastname@example.org