1. 1.5 days to OSU
Leading the list of 32 Tigers returning to their home state for the program’s 30th bowl game is senior QB James Franklin. Head coach Gary Pinkel said the Corinth, Texas native has been the catalyst in Mizzou’s breakout season in the SEC after the team was picked to finish sixth in the conference’s Eastern Division.
"A year ago was remarkable what he had to go through," said head coach Gary Pinkel. "To see his maturity and see him be able to deal with all the adversity he had like he always does. It made him tougher mentally, a little bit more resilient and a little bit more determined. When you get hurt and you’re sitting on the bench and it’s something that’s real important to you, you sit there and shake your head a little bit. Our players have great respect for him. He’s a great leader and he’s had a great, great year for us."
Franklin and the other seniors closed practice with the Tiger tradition of taking their last hits in a Mizzou uniform before their final game.
"The seniors give so much," said Pinkel. "This is the last practice they are going to have. You add up the number of practices, how many times they lifted weights, all of the conditioning they’ve done and all the time they’ve put into this place the last four or five years, it’s the tradition of their last hit to honor them. It’s a lot of fun. They’re creative in their own way. It’s a great statement for the seniors and what they’ve done. It’s fun for our whole football team."
"There’s not enough things to be said about their defensive line’s athleticism. They’re all high-motor guys and they don’t give up on plays," right guard Parker Graham said. "It’s going to be a really big test for us. Top to bottom, those guys are really athletic and have a knack for the ball. They all have a ton of sacks. That’s a good challenge for us. That’s what you play the game for. You love going up against great opponents, and this game’s going to be one of those for us.
"Their depth is pretty remarkable. They’ve got guys on the third string that have a ton of sacks, too. It just lets you know that no matter who’s in the game for them, you’ve got to be on your toes and ready to play your best ball."
Graham has found a home at guard this year after starting all but one game at tackle last season and the first five games at left tackle this season.
Outside of Graham, the Cowboys have mixed and matched a bit across the line, but have started pushing the line in the run game recently.
And they've been keeping defensive linemen off the quarterbacks all year.
The Trib: MU football team practices under the big screen
The Missourian: Missouri football team gains perspective with hospital visit
Post-Dispatch: Henson, Gundy have same philosophy for offense
Post-Dispatch: More than one star along Mizzou's front four
Post-Dispatch: OSU or MU? Which team is more fired upl?
Post-Dispatch: Josh Stewart a multi-purpose weapon for Oklahoma State
Post-Dispatch: Yurcich takes unconventional path to Cotton Bowl
KC Star: MU, Oklahoma State assistants will be facing alma maters
KC Star (AP): Oklahoma, Missouri governors make Cotton Bowl wager
KC Star: Cotton Bowl notebook: Palatial stadium impresses MU
Fox Sports MW: Kony Ealy's strong season for Missouri Tigers draws notice from opponents, NFL scouts
PowerMizzou: Cotton Bowl Offensive Keys
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PowerMizzou: Mizzou's Motivation
Mizzou Network: COTTON BOWL REPORT: Tigers visit Dallas Children's Medical Center
Mizzou Network: COTTON BOWL REPORT: Preview w/ Fox's Charles Davis
Mizzou Network: COTTON BOWL REPORT: Seniors' Last Hits
2. QB No. 1
Nearly an hour after Missouri’s 59-42 loss in the SEC Championship Game, Franklin sat in a quiet locker room still in his full equipment. While some players hurried out of the locker room, fought back tears and hardly made a sound, Franklin still had a smile. He turned his chair to face running back Henry Josey and comforted his teammate.
"It really has no benefit whatsoever being negative," Franklin said. "I like to be positive Patty not negative Nancy."
For such a positive person, Franklin has a tough time giving himself the same praise he gives everyone else. He’s third all-time in Missouri history in yards of total offense behind only Chase Daniel and Brad Smith. With 172 passing yards in the Cotton Bowl, he will be third all-time in passing yardage as well. That's still not good enough in his eyes.
"There’s still some things I do want to prove," Franklin said. "If I can rack up about 2,000 yards passing this game and 25 or 30 touchdowns or so, I think I can do that."
3. LB No. 48
That means Andrew Wilson, who won Missouri’s Hammer Award as the team’s most ferocious hitter all four seasons, is only seven tackles from owning family bragging rights.
"Obviously, I wanted to be just as good as him," Andrew Wilson said. "You want to walk in your dad’s footsteps, but I never really thought about the tackle thing as a goal. I knew growing up how many tackles he had, but I never thought about it when I got here."
The first time it was brought to Andrew’s attention was during Missouri’s postseason banquet after the Texas A&M game. He trailed his father by 17 tackles before recording 11 against Auburn in the SEC championship game.
This season, Andrew has had at least six tackles in 10 of the last 11 games.
"It would be pretty cool, because I grew up hearing about how good he was from his friends and I used to watch tapes when I was younger of his games," Andrew said. "Lately, I’ve become aware of it. We’ll see. I’m pretty close."