2008 Cotton Bowl - Missouri vs. Arkansas
Missouri QB Chase Daniel
Missouri QB Chase Daniel
Posted Dec 26, 2007

2008 Cotton Bowl Preview & Analysis - Missouri vs. Arkansas

Missouri (11-2) vs. Arkansas (8-4)

Jan. 1st, 11:30 a.m. ET, Fox

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2008 Cotton Bowl History, Each Team's Best Bowl Moments, & More

National Rankings
Missouri Arkansas
Total Offense
5th  492.69 ypg 16th  457.42 ypg
Total Defense
59th  380.31 ypg 45th  357.83 ypg
Scoring Offense
7th  40 ppg 9th  39.83 ppg
Scoring Defense
44th  24.54 ppg 49th  25.58 ppg
Run Offense
46th  164.92 ypg 3rd  296.75 ypg
Run Defense
26th  118.85 ypg 54th  146.67 ypg
Pass Offense
7th  327.77 ypg 112th  160.67 ypg
Pass Defense
100th  261.46 ypg 36th  211.17 ypg
Turnover Margin
14th  0.85 26th  0.50
Illinois W 40-34
at Ole Miss W 38-25
West Mich W 52-24
Illinois St W 38-17
Nebraska W 41-6
at Okla L 41-31
Tex Tech W 41-10
Iowa State W 42-28
at Col. W 55-10
Tex A&M W 40-26
at Kan St W 49-32
Kansas W 36-28
Big 12 Champ.
Oklahoma L 38-17
Troy W 46-26
at Alabama L 41-38
Kentucky L 42-29
North Texas W 66-7
Chatt. W 34-16
Auburn L 9-7
at Ole Miss W 44-8
FIU W 58-10
S Carolina
W 48-36
at Tenn. L 34-13
Miss State W 45-31
at LSU W 50-48 3OT
Position Ratings
relative to each other
M 5 highest
1 lowest
5 Quarterbacks 3
3.5 RBs 5
5 Receivers 3
4 O Line 4
3.5 D Line 3.5
3.5 Linebackers 3.5
3 Secondary 4
4 Spec Teams 2
4 Coaching 2.5

There's the possible No. 1 pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, or at least one of the top three, in Darren McFadden, there's a Missouri team that was No. 1 in the nation for a cup of coffee before losing to Oklahoma and being put on the pay-no-mind list by the BCS. It's one of the most prestigious of the non-BCS bowl games, and always on the must-watch list of New Year's Day games, but the biggest figure looming over the game won't even be there.

With all the craziness surrounding the Bobby Petrino hiring at Arkansas, there's still a whale of a matchup in what might be more entertaining and better than any of the BCS bowls other than the championship. How can you not have fun with the nation's seventh (Missouri) and ninth (Arkansas) ranked scoring attacks with the two teams combining to average close to 80 points per game?

Missouri has the biggest BCS beef going 11-2, with both losses to Oklahoma, along with wins over big-game invitees Illinois and Kansas. The Cotton might be seen as a consolation prize, but it's still an important game for the future of the Tiger program as many are wondering if this season was a bit of a fluke, or if it was a signal that it's here to stay as a Big 12 powerhouse.

Consistency hasn't exactly been the norm around Columbia, but a win here would likely mean a certain preseason top ten ranking, if not top five, and would continue to make this college football's hot new team. If Missouri wants to prove to the world that it belonged in the Orange Bowl, it should come out roaring against an Arkansas team that's shown glimpses of greatness mixed in with a few total clunkers.

Call this a period on the end of a very interesting, very tumultuous era of Arkansas football. Reggie Herring will be the interim coach while Petrino gets settled in and tries to avoid interviewing for another job, and he'll get the honor of coaching McFadden in his final NFL game. While the two-time Heisman runner-up has said he hasn't made up his mind yet about leaving early, let's be serious here. Everyone will be tuning in to see if he can make a little more magic on a big stage, while the pro scouts will be watching and praying he gets through it in one piece.

The SEC has owned the Cotton Bowl recently with four straight wins, but the following season, the winning team has been less than scintillating.
Ole Miss beat Oklahoma State in 2004, and then the Rebels went 4-7 the next year. Tennessee blasted Texas A&M in 2005, and then went 5-6. Alabama beat Texas Tech in a surprising defensive struggle, and then went 6-6 and canned head coach Mike Shula. Last year, Auburn beat Nebraska in a yawner, and then had a mediocre 8-4 season.

Four of the last six Cotton Bowls have been decided by seven points or fewer, and while there are a slew of great early games on New Year's Day, this one deserves at least a few moments of undivided attention.

Players to watch: It's not hard to find marquee names to start the year off with two Heisman finalists in Darren McFadden and Chase Daniel. For McFadden, this is a final showcase game to up his stock and his cachet even more after rushing for 1,725 yards and 15 touchdowns. He was the big name last year in the Capital One Bowl loss to Wisconsin, but after running 19 times for 85 yards, the biggest highlight came when he was caught from behind on a breakaway run by Badger CB Jack Ikegwuonu.

Daniel should be one of the leading Heisman contenders going into 2008, assuming he doesn't make an ill-advised decision to leave for the pros early. Returning to his native Texas, he'll try to end the season on a positive note after being held to 219 yards and for the first time all year, no touchdowns, in the Big 12 title loss to Oklahoma. The Arkansas pass defense might be fifth in the nation in pass efficiency defense and 36th in pass D, but it lost to the two top passers it faced, Kentucky's Andre Woodson and Tennessee's Erik Ainge, and needed an all-timer of a rushing day from McFadden to get past 364 yards from South Carolina's Blake Mitchell. Watch for Daniel to come back with one of his most efficient and focused games of the year.

Looking to make yet another national statement, and be considered among the top returning players in 2008, is burgeoning Tiger star Jeremy Maclin, who came up with 77 catches for 1,023 yards and nine touchdowns, with 27 grabs over the last three games of the year. The coaching staff tries to get the ball in his hands in every way possible with 349 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 46 carries, while he's also a devastating kick and punt returner. The Arkansas defense will do everything possible to keep him contained, which should open things up for Mizzou's pair of All-America tight ends, Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman. Rucker, a senior, led the team with 81 catches for 815 yards and eight touchdowns, while Coffman struggled through bone spurs in his ankle and struggled over the final few games. Despite being a top pro prospect with 156 career catches and 20 touchdowns, the junior is expected to return for his senior year

While Arkansas might be all about McFadden, Felix Jones and the running game, it should finally have top receiver Marcus Monk as healthy as he's been all season long. A dangerous matchup nightmare, the 6-6, 220-pound senior hasn't been right from day one after undergoing knee surgery just before the year began. While he made 12 catches for 116 yards and three touchdowns over the second half of the year, he was hardly the same weapon who averaged 19.24 yards per grab with 11 touchdowns in 2006.

Arkansas will win if... it stuffs the run. Daniel is a tremendous talent who can get out of bed and throw for 350, but he tends to press if the Tiger ground game isn't going anywhere. He was fantastic as a sophomore, too, but as the season went on, he tried to make more and more plays happen on his own and the attack bogged down way too often. In the two games against Oklahoma, Mizzou was held to 57 rushing yards and 98, two of the three times all year it was kept under 100 yards. The other time was in the season opener against Illinois, and that was the one other near miss. This isn't a great Hog run defense, but it's strong enough to focus just on Tony Temple and make Daniel try to exorcise the Oklahoma demons on every play.

Missouri will win if... Casey Dick stinks. Arkansas will run on everyone, but if it's not getting an efficient game from its starting quarterback, forget about it. Dick is auditioning for the new coaching staff after coming off two of his strongest performances of his career, completing 14 of 17 passes for 199 yards and four scores in the win over Mississippi State, and hitting ten of 18 throws for 94 yards and a touchdown in the win over LSU. He completed more than half his passes in each of the eight wins, and completed under half his throws in three of the four losses completing 48% of his throws with six of his nine interceptions coming in the defeats. The Tiger secondary gives up 261 yards per game but is decent at forcing mistakes. It needs to make more big plays than it gives up.

What will happen: Before all the coaching wackiness, this seemed like a perfect chance for Arkansas to make a big statement for the SEC and run past the Tigers in a shootout, and while Herring will do a great job, the loss of Houston Nutt might be just enough of a distraction to tip the scales in a relatively even game. The Arkansas defense isn't good enough to handle the Missouri offense if all the parts are working, with not enough of a pass rush to screw up Daniel. Arkansas will run for over 250 yards, but it won't be enough to overcome 350 passing yards and four touchdowns from Daniel.

Line: Missouri -3.5 ... CFN Prediction:
Missouri 38 ... Arkansas 28

2008 Cotton Bowl History, Each Team's Best Bowl Moments, & More