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Modeling Missouri and Oklahoma State in the Liberty Bowl

Does a cowboy enjoy the upper hand in a bout with a tiger? What if he’s unarmed?

NCAA Football: Missouri at Tennessee
Drew Lock may have a prolific Liberty Bowl sendoff, but this year’s stats tell us it’s the Tigers’ run game that should truly have a field day against Oklahoma State’s defense.
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

If you know me, you know I love coming up with random, fairly arbitrary statistical models and seeing what the numbers can tell me about the truths of the universe.

If you know me, you also know that, once I conceive of a model with a modest level of success, I repeat it. Again and again. And again and again and again.

So it was with my Texas Bowl projecting last year, in which I fit the stats into four different models and had the Longhorns beating the Tigers in three of them.

The average predicted score: 34-25, Texas. Actual score: 33-16, Texas.


So let’s do it with Oklahoma State and the Liberty Bowl this year, except with some different wrinkles that I will get to later.

Let’s start with the broad strokes of the methodology: take Oklahoma State and Missouri’s offensive and defensive performances against its Power-5 opponents this year — nine for each team — and compare them with how those Power-5 opponents did on the whole against their other Power-5 opponents besides Missouri and Oklahoma State.

So you establish a Power-5 norm for Missouri and Oklahoma State’s opponents, then see how far above or below Missouri and Oklahoma State performed against those norms.

And fit them into four models...

The Whole Season Model

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Oklahoma State is 3-6 against Power-5 teams this year, Missouri is 5-4. These projections are based on their numbers in all of those games.

Missouri 44, Oklahoma State 30

Run: 47 for 257, 4 TD
Pass: 21-of-35, 260 yards, 2 TD, INT
Totals: 82 plays, 517 yards

Oklahoma State
Run: 36 for 130, TD
Pass: 22-of-40, 343 yards, 2 TD, INT
Totals: 76 plays, 473 yards

For the season, against Power-5 teams, Missouri is averaging 31.9 points and 424.6 yards a game while letting up 25.9 points and 401.7 yards.

Oklahoma State is averaging 33.8 points and 469.9 yards a game while letting up 37.6 points and 484.1 yards.

The Tigers’ offense is about 9 percent above the norm in yards and 23 percent in points, while its defense is 2 percent worse in yards per game, but 12 percent better in points.

Oklahoma State’s offense is 17 percent better than the norm in points per game, 13 in yards. Its defense is 28 percent worse in points per game, 16 percent in yards.

Both have good offenses. Missouri has an average to above-average defense. Oklahoma State’s defense is dreadful.

Advantage, Tigers.

The Best Performances Model

The four best performances by each team’s offense and defense when compared against the norm.

For Missouri, offensively, best were Florida, Purdue, Georgia and Tennessee. Defensively, best were Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky.

For Oklahoma State, offensively, best were West Virginia, Kansas, Iowa State and Oklahoma. Defensively, best were West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

Missouri 49, Oklahoma State 22

Run: 45 for 252, 4 TD
Pass: 27-of-45, 338 yards, 2 TD
Totals: 90 plays, 590 yards

Oklahoma State
Run: 36 for 106, TD
Pass: 20-of-40, 336 yards, TD, INT
Totals: 76 plays, 442 yards

Missouri, at its best, has been far better this year than Oklahoma State has been at its best.

The Tigers, at their best, are scoring 52 percent more points per game and letting up 47 percent fewer points per game than the norm. The Cowboys, while scoring 62 percent more, are also giving up 4 percent more.

So, even in its best games, the defense is still about 4-9 percent below average in points and yards per game.

The Worst Performances Model

The four worst performances by each team’s offense and defense when compared against the norm.

For Missouri, offensively, worst were Alabama, Kentucky, Arkansas and South Carolina. Defensively, worst were Purdue, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Alabama.

For Oklahoma State, offensively, worst were Kansas State, TCU, Texas Tech and Baylor. Defensively, worst were Iowa State, Texas Tech, Kansas State and TCU.

Missouri 38, Oklahoma State 24

Run: 49 for 240, 3 TD
Pass: 17-of-28, 211 yards, TD, INT
Totals: 77 plays, 451 yards

Oklahoma State
Run: 29 for 131, TD
Pass: 22-of-42, 331 yards, TD, INT
Totals: 71 plays, 462 yards

Again, a measure of degrees. Missouri’s offense, in its worst games, comes in at 5 percent below the norm in points and 12 percent in yards per game. Oklahoma State’s comes in at 32 percent below in points and 13 in yards.

Defensively, Missouri’s worst is 6 percent above the norm in points and 23 in yards, Oklahoma State’s worst is 64 percent above in points, 33 in yards.

So, with both teams playing at their worst, that would still translate to a comfortable win for the Tigers.

The “Matching Up the Competition” Model

How has Oklahoma State played against teams with above average offenses and defenses, like Missouri? How has Missouri played against above average offenses and below average defenses, like Oklahoma State?

Oklahoma State 49, Missouri 45

Run: 49 for 291, 4 TD
Pass: 24-of-41, 294 yards, TD, INT
Totals: 90 plays, 585 yards

Oklahoma State
Run: 43 for 147, TD
Pass: 25-of-42, 406 yards, 5 TD, INT
Totals: 85 plays, 553 yards

Here’s where things get dicey. This is looking at the two teams’ opponents’ ranks in points per game, yards per game and yards per play for and against to come up with a unified rating of offensive and defensive strength.

Missouri ranks in the top half of the offenses and defenses Oklahoma State has faced, along with Oklahoma, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Texas on offense and Iowa State, TCU, Texas and West Virginia on defense.

In pure ranking, the Tigers are closest to Texas, Baylor and Texas Tech on offense, Texas, Kansas State and West Virginia on defense.

Oklahoma State ranks in the top half of the offenses and bottom half of defenses Missouri has faced, along with Alabama, Georgia, Purdue and South Carolina on offense and South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Arkansas on defense.

In pure ranking, the Cowboys are closest to Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina on offense, Tennessee, South Carolina and Vanderbilt on defense.

And, actually, Oklahoma State hasn’t been that terrible against teams with above average offenses and defenses: the Cowboys are 2-4 against those top-half teams mentioned above but stuck close in all of those games (besides Texas Tech) and actually hung L’s on Texas and West Virginia.

Missouri is 4-3 against its representative teams, but played down to South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

It all translates to a narrow Oklahoma State win. But that doesn’t really matter because we’ve reached...

The Consensus Model

All the previous models mashed together.

Missouri 44, Oklahoma State 31

Run: 48 for 260, 4 TD
Pass: 22-of-37, 276 yards, 2 TD, INT
Totals: 85 plays, 536 yards

Oklahoma State
Run: 36 for 129, TD
Pass: 22-of-41, 354 yards, 2 TD, INT
Totals: 77 plays, 483 yards

So, if Missouri beats Oklahoma State in the Liberty Bowl and anyone tries to start peddling a “haters said they couldn’t do it!” narrative, calmly tell them that I said they could. And should.


Here’s all my work, if you’re interested.