Cotton Bowl Preview

A day after watching its national title hopes disappear, Missouri learned its bowl fate: a New Year's Day matchup with Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl.

Not exactly what the Tigers had in mind.

Missouri (11-2) had hoped to land one of the at-large berths in the Bowl Championship Series after losing 38-17 to Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship, but will instead play the No. 25 Razorbacks (8-4) in Dallas.

``We had a great season, but nobody's thinking about that,'' Missouri defensive tackle Lorenzo Williams said after the loss. ``Everybody's thinking about what slipped through our hands.''

Missouri, which dropped from the top spot to seventh in the AP poll Sunday, was ranked first in the BCS standings last week. In a turn of events similar to 1998, when Kansas State was poised to play in the national championship before losing in the Big 12 title game, the Tigers are headed back to the Lone Star State.

For Kansas State, what followed was a monumental collapse to Purdue in the Alamo Bowl - something the Tigers will try to avoid in their first appearance in a New Year's Day contest since the 1969 Orange Bowl.

``I would like to think if you're 11-2 it's somewhat of a success,'' Pinkel said. ``We'll get over this (loss to Oklahoma) and learn from it and be a better football team like we've done in the past.''

Quarterback Chase Daniel said that while it's tough to see two teams the Tigers beat - Kansas and Illinois - go to a BCS game while his team missed out, being in the Cotton Bowl is a nice consolation prize.

``It's disappointing, but like Coach Pinkel said, we can't focus on that,'' Daniel said. ``We've got to focus on taking the next couple of weeks off and preparing as well as we can to beat Arkansas and finish this year up winning 12 games. That's pretty special.''

The bowl appearance will be Missouri's fourth in the past five years, capping one of the best seasons in school history. The Tigers' only other Cotton Bowl appearance was in 1945, while the Razorbacks will be there for the 11th time.

This edition will be a rematch of the 2003 Independence Bowl won by Arkansas. Only this time, Razorbacks coach Houston Nutt won't be on the sideline.

Nutt resigned from Arkansas last week, hours later agreeing to become head coach at Southeastern Conference rival Mississippi. Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring will coach the team in the bowl game.

The Jan. 1 contest will match two of the country's top offensive talents: Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel, the Big 12 offensive player of the year, and Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, the SEC's rushing leader and 2006 Heisman Trophy runner-up.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Missouri –3.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for the Cotton Bowl (Game Matchup).

``When I thought about playing Arkansas, that was the first thing that came up in my head,'' Pinkel said of McFadden. ``He's a great player, obviously one of the great players in the country. Certainly, he'll be a great challenge for us.''

Daniel and McFadden, both juniors, were considered among the top contenders for the Heisman before Saturday's game. But going against a relentless Oklahoma defense, Daniel was held to just 219 yards passing and tossed a pivotal interception.

For the first time this season, Daniel didn't throw a touchdown. It also was the first time Missouri failed to score at least 30 points.

Daniel and McFadden will learn Wednesday if they are among the five finalists invited to New York for the Dec. 8 Heisman Trophy ceremony. Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan are among the other leading contenders.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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