2010 Cotton Bowl Odds and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 12/22/2009
2010 Cotton Bowl
Mississippi (-3, 50.5) vs. Oklahoma State
Saturday, January 2, 2 pm
This is one of the classic bowl games, having been played continuously since 1937. It will have a very different look this time around, though - after having been played in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas every year, it is moving over to Arlington and the gargantuan confines of the new Cowboys Stadium this year.
Ole Miss is no stranger to this game. Just last year they beat Texas Tech in convincing fashion. They also won the game in 2004 and 1956, with a loss in 1962. This year's game is a rematch of that 2004 contest, in which the Rebels beat the Cowboys, 31-28. Ole Miss was favored by three in that one, so it ended as a push. That's the only time that these two teams have met. The only other Oklahoma State appearance in the Cotton Bowl was a 34-0 massacre of TCU, but that was all the way back in 1945 when the school was known as Oklahoma A&M.
Both teams share something in common that they likely wish they didn't. Both teams were highly ranked at some point this season, but then plummeted after showing us that they weren't the team we thought they were. For Ole Miss it was a loss at South Carolina and then a lopsided loss to Alabama that dimmed their star, while Oklahoma State suffered most from being humiliated by Texas.
One final note of interest for this game - both coaches are former Oklahoma State quarterbacks. Mike Gundy won two bowl games for the team, which isn't tough to do when you get to hand off to Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders. After starting as a freshman at Arkansas, Nutt transferred to Oklahoma State and was the backup for two years. Nutt was also an assistant coach with the Cowboys when Gundy was under center.
Oklahoma State should be motivated by the fact that they have a chance to win 10 games in a season for the first time since Gundy was the quarterback. On the other hand, they could be frustrated and disappointed by the fact that they would be playing in a BCS game if they hadn't lost to Oklahoma in the last game of the season. Ole Miss has won seven of their last eight bowl games, so the program doesn't seem to have a problem getting up for these games. The Rebels will also have to deal with a disappointing end to the regular season, though - they were beaten up by a Mississippi State team that they should have beaten.
The big matchup to watch here is stud Ole Miss running back Dexter McCluster against the potent Oklahoma State run defense. It's strength against strength, so one side is going to have to give in. McCluster has a good chance to become the first player in the history of the SEC to run for 1,000 yards and have at least 500 receiving yards in the same season. All he needs to do is run for 15 yards and go 25 yards through the air. Oklahoma State has the sixth best run defense in the country by rushing yards. McCluster wasn't great against Oklahoma State, but he was all but unstoppable in his four games before that. Unless McCluster can establish himself here, QB Jevan Snead will have to carry more of the load than normal. That's not necessarily a bad thing here - Oklahoma State ranks just 93rd against the pass,
Another key matchup is Oklahoma State QB Zac Robinson against his own ankle. Robinson has struggled with an injury to the joint for weeks, and it isn't at 100 percent yet. If he isn't at his best in this game then the Cowboys could be in some trouble. That ankle was a big part of the reason why the Cowboys were no match for the Sooners in the season-ender. Though Robinson isn't a superstar passer, he is a dynamic dual threat who gives his offensive unit confidence.
Line Value and Cotton Bowl Odds
The public loves Ole Miss, with about three quarters of bets going their way. Despite that, the line opened at three and has been reasonably strong on that key number. It's showing signs of moving to 3.5 online, but given how long it stayed at three you could surmise that their is some smart money that is either on the Cowboys or itching to be. The total opened at 50.5 and has shown no signs of moving from there.
Cotton Bowl Predictions
I am not a fan of Jevan Snead at all, but I still have to back the Rebels - especially if I can have them at three. Zac Robinson's ankle causes me too much concern, and I think that McCluster will be able to establish himself enough against the Cowboys to make a difference. Snead also won't look at bad against this defense as he has against some good ones.
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