ARLINGTON, Texas — Don’t tell Missouri that New Year’s Six games outside the College Football Playoff don’t matter. If you watched the No. 9 Tigers celebrate their 14-3 Cotton Bowl win against No. 7 Ohio State, it might as well have been a championship.
Players made snow angels in the confetti. Every staff member got a photo with someone. Nobody wanted to leave the field. Mizzou fans, who sold out their 13,000 ticket allotment in less than 18 hours, packed in more than half of the 70,000 people in AT&T Stadium. It was the Tigers’ biggest bowl win since the Cotton Bowl to cap a top-five season a decade ago. An 11th win. A reason to celebrate a breakthrough season and an upward trajectory.
“The way (the Cotton Bowl) treated us, it felt like the Super Bowl,” head coach Eli Drinkwitz said.
— Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (@CottonBowlGame) December 30, 2023
Yet Friday night again highlighted the growing bowl conundrum of the past decade and why things are going to change next season.
The upcoming 12-team College Football Playoff was meant for teams like Mizzou — to provide access to the programs that don’t win their conference but have a top-10 season and might spring an upset or two. So they can play in a postseason game that matters, against a team that wants to be there.
This Cotton Bowl meant everything to Mizzou. It’s hard to say the same for Ohio State. Wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., a future top-10 pick, was here but didn’t play. The starting quarterback this season, Kyle McCord, has already committed to transfer to Syracuse and was on the sideline for the Orange’s bowl game last week. Ohio State played most of this game with its third-string quarterback.
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