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PREGAMIN’ OHIO STATE

HOWDY Y’ALL, FIXIN’ TO ROUND US UP SOME BUCKEYES BEFORE NEW YEAR

♫ Just left Faurot Field, dressin’ up formal ♫

Always save your best for last. That’s what my coaches used to tell me. Apparently that’s what Mizzou’s uniform team learned too!

It’s not the first time Mizzou has gone with the all-black and gold Block M combo — they donned the look in their win over Florida. But, as the consensus best fit in their locker, it’s worth bringing back for the trip to Arlington.

In Case You Missed It...

  • Can you guess which team has both the most appearances and victories at the Cotton Bowl Classic? That would be the University of Texas-Austin, with 11 wins from 22 games. Ole Miss, however, owns the best win percentage at the Cotton Bowl for teams that have appeared 5 or more times (4-1).
  • TCU owns the distinction of being the first Cotton Bowl (1937) winners after a barn-burning 16-6 match up with Marquette, which folded its football program 23 years later. Football Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh was the Horned Frogs’ quarterback at the time. He would later contribute to an important piece of hip-hop culture when Jay-Z wore his 1947 jersey in the “Girls, Girls, Girls” music video.
  • Want to relive the 1976 Missouri Tigers’ upset win over Ohio State, the one time Mizzou has toppled the Buckeyes? Bill C. has got you.

Rock M-ixology

The beauty of bowl season, at least in my eyes, is that it’s all a freebie. Sure, it’s really nice to win bowl games, and external observers might claim my haphazard tone is due to the fact that I haven’t experienced a Mizzou bowl victory since 2015. But losing the Cotton Bowl to Ohio State shouldn’t put a damper on a season that saw Mizzou take a massive step forward as a program.

So, to reflect the level of casual, competitive fun I hope we all feel tomorrow evening, I’m going to refrain from pairing this week’s drink to Ohio State, thematically or otherwise. Instead, I’m going with a drink that I really want to make, one that I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying several times over the course of the 2023 calendar year. Let’s make a Macunaíma.

Image courtesy of The Educated Barfly.

2 oz Cachaca Balm Aged, 0.25 oz Fernet, 0.75 oz Lime Juice, 0.75 oz Simple Syrup

Add all ingredients to a shaker. Shake until chilled. Double strain into chilled coupe.

This would be, if I was forced to choose, my drink of the year. As I continued to extend my home bar, I branched into all sorts of liqueurs, spirits, amaros and otherwise alcoholic beverages. And while I can’t say that Cachaca or Fernet were always my favorite ingredients to work with, I can say that they work exquisitely together. This drink is sweet, tart and complex with a lovely lingering bite of those strong Fernet medicinals.

A strong final cocktail for a strong football season. Cheers, Tiger fans.

It’s been just over a month since Mizzou wrapped up its first 10-win campaign in a decade. In brief retrospect, what was your biggest takeaway from the 2023 season?

Josh Matejka, Deputy Site Manager: That Eli Drinkwitz knew what he was doing. Nate and BK told us for several years that the roster was lining up for a 2023 breakout, and that’s exactly what happened. Drinkwitz maximized the potential of the roster for three seasons, but it took some time for his transfer additions and high school recruits to get acclimated to the culture and system. Best of all, his humility in turning over the offense to Kirby Moore showed immense growth for the young head coach. That humility was rewarded immediately, and proved to be yet another step in the right direction for Drinkwitz and Mizzou.

NCAA Basketball: Vanderbilt at Missouri
Eli Drinkwitz built Mizzou’s roster for a breakout in 2023.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Parker Gillam, Beat Writer: That this rebuild is good for the long haul. It’s one thing to have great on-field momentum, but it’s another to have the past month off-the-field that Mizzou has had. From the wins on the recruiting trail and the transfer portal to the stadium renovations to the awards and recognition that this team received, positive headlines have surrounded this program in recent weeks, and it all appears to be following a trend. The present is pretty great, but the future looks even brighter.

Sammy Stava, Staff Writer: My biggest takeaway was that Mizzou received a lot of respect nationally, and deservingly so. This team proved that they are for real, even in the close losses to LSU and Georgia. Don’t take this for granted, though — as these special seasons don’t happen too often for this program. Having said that, with the way Drinkwitz and the staff are recruiting — the expectation heading into next season is to make the 12-team playoff.

Eli Drinkwitz and staff have been big winners of the transfer portal and the recruiting trail, pulling in a small number of high-impact transfers and another Top 25 high school class. Which Tiger newcomer do you count as the staff’s biggest get?

Josh Matejka: A peek behind the curtain: Parker and Sammy answered this question before me and kindly left me the pick of the litter.

How can you not say Cayden Green? The true freshman was arguably Oklahoma’s best offensive lineman in 2023, immediately making good on his blue-chip pedigree. He’ll fit right into Mizzou’s offensive line and be a staple for the next two seasons. In fact, he might even make the line better! “Football is won in the trenches,” is old hat at this point, but we know how true it is, especially after this season. Landing the best transfer offensive lineman in the country assures that dropoff on the line won’t be an issue in 2024.

Parker Gillam: It’s hard to stray away from either Nwaneri or Green, but I’ll go with Marcus Carroll. He had a host of other potential suitors in the portal and fits what Kirby Moore will try to do perfectly with his skillset. Running back was a major question mark for the 2024 team, and Drinkwitz answered that question before the offseason even got going. Quality depth will be needed, but with Carroll’s versatility and burst, he should fit right in to the RB room.

NCAA Football: Georgia St. at Army
Marcus Carroll followed up a monster 2023 season by transferring to Mizzou.
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Sammy Stava: Williams Nwaneri and Cayden Green are the obvious picks — so I’ll go with WR Courtney Crutchfield. Landing the top player in the state of Arkansas after consistently beating the Razorbacks on the field is making quite the statement.

Bowl season is every college football fan’s dream. How do you celebrate the glut of college football games?

Josh Matejka: I tend to stick to the bigger ticket items, but that doesn’t mean I won’t watch Texas State vs. Rice while I’m out to dinner with the family. I, too, am an advocate for more bowl games because I think they mean a lot for the kids who play in them. But whew am I glad I don’t sit down for more games between 6-6 Group of 5 teams.

Parker Gillam: Generally by watching all the picks I was heavily confident in lose and washing that down with a host of holiday treats (sorry, but peanut butter and chocolate Buckeyes are my family’s traditional New Year’s snack). I love following the unique matchups that we rarely get to see as well as the fun that teams have at their respective bowl venues. With the 12-team playoff, bowls will naturally die off, and that is tragic.

I personally advocate for the NCAA to raise the postseason win limit to 7 victories, which would limit the amount of bowl games we have while also featuring stronger teams in the postseason that people would care more about. After all, should we really be rewarding mediocrity?

Sammy Stava: Hanging out with family and watching bowl games all day is a great way spend the holidays. Some people say there are too many bowl games. That’s nonsense. More College Football is good.

Ohio State had a proto-typical season under Ryan Day: Elite advanced numbers undone by a loss to Michigan leading to a bitter ending. How do you view the Buckeyes in the landscape of college football?

Josh Matejka: How else? As one of the very best in the business.

As much as I don’t care for Ryan Day, it’s impossible to acknowledge that he’s kept the standards immensely high in Columbus. The Buckeyes are always in the CFP conversation and will more than likely be an annual participant now that the field is expanding. They spit out NFL prospects with the best of them and always field near-elite offensive and defensive units. That Day can’t seem to kick the Michigan bugaboo is something that will nag at Buckeye fans more than anyone else. Simply put, they’re year-in-and-year-out one of the four or five best programs in the sport.

Parker Gillam: Seven points away from being the No. 1 team. Kyle McCord was boo’d out of Columbus purely because he wasn’t putting up the unrealistic numbers of Barrett, Haskins, Fields or Stroud. He was disrespected. The Ohio State offense was solid throughout the season and is capable of scoring on anybody at its best, and the defense is really strong, especially in the front seven. They’re a playoff-caliber team that will be motivated to end the season on a positive note.

Syndication: Journal-Courier
Ohio State couldn’t beat Michigan (again), but that didn’t stop them from being one of the best teams in college football.
Alex Martin/Journal and Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Sammy Stava: Easily put, they’re consistently one of the best programs in all of college football behind Michigan, Alabama, and Georgia. Ryan Day’s teams have always been elite but just haven’t been able to breakthrough and win a National Championship.

Ohio State is arguably Mizzou’s biggest challenge of the season (Georgia notwithstanding), and with a few exceptions, they’ll be at full strength. Do you think the Tigers will walk away with their first bowl win since 2014?

Josh Matejka: I love picking bowl games. It’s like “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”; everything’s made up and the points don’t matter.

Ohio State is still looking pretty strong despite a number of key opt-outs. But Mizzou will also be at full strength (outside of Ty’Ron Hopper and Ennis Rakestraw) and have had a month to prepare for the Buckeyes with their full team. It’s a fool’s errand to say you’re confident when playing a Playoff-caliber team, but this Mizzou team has earned a little bit of confidence. I say this Cotton Bowl plays out very similarly to the one that happened 10 years ago: a back-and-forth affair that ends in some late-game heroics from the Tigers.

Parker Gillam: As of now, yes. I think Ohio State will come out more motivated than people expect, and I think they’ll deliver the first haymaker in this game, catching the up-start Tigers off-guard. But, I think Mizzou will rebound, be in a close game at halftime and pull away in the fourth quarter. Devin Brown will play well, but he’ll make a key mistake or two in the final frame that allows the likes of Brady Cook and Cody Schrader to put the game away. Both sides of the ball make key plays, and I’ve got Mizzou 30-24, but it’ll come down to the final minutes.

Sammy Stava: With Kyle McCord transferring and plenty of opt-outs on the Buckeyes side, I will give Mizzou the slight edge here. Sometimes, bowl games come down to motivation — and Missouri seems to be the more motivated team in this one. While Ohio State is still the more talented team on paper — the Tigers will find a way to win this one. 34-30 MU.