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2017 Texas Bowl preview: Missouri vs. Texas

Old Big 12 rivals will renew a rivalry in Houston.

Texas v Missouri Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

2017 TEXAS BOWL PREVIEW

7-5 (4-4, SEC) Records 6-6 (5-4, Big 12)
32nd (S&P+) Rankings 54th (S&P+)
39.3 (Off.) | 31.8 (Def.) Points Per Game 29.2 (Off.) | 21.7 (Def.)
29.2 (Off.) | 28.3 (Def.) Average Field Position 32.1 (Off.) | 28.7 (47th)
47.4% (Off.) | 40.9% (Def.) Success Rate 39.2% (Off.) | 37.0% (Def.)
50.0% (Off.) | 43.4% (Def.) Rushing Success Rate 39.8% (Off.) | 35.9% (Def.)
44.8% (Off.) | 38.3% (Def.) Passing Success Rate 38.6% (Off.) | 38.1% (Def.)

HOW WE GOT HERE

The fact that the Missouri Tigers are even bowling in the first place is remarkable. The Tigers’ 1-5 start brought on doom and miserable feelings in Columbia. However, a six-game win streak that no one saw coming brought the Tigers to the postseason. Although many of their opponents in the SEC East were lowly or going through coaching changes, it doesn’t change the fact that this wild turnaround occurred in the fashion that it did.

Mizzou defeated the Florida Gators, Tennessee Volunteers, Vanderbilt Commodores and Arkansas Razorbacks to rack up four straight conference wins to finish at 4-4 in SEC play.

For the Texas Longhorns, it just feels like more of the same. 2017 marked the fourth straight season that the Longhorns were unable to get more than seven wins in the regular season. The hiring of Tom Herman saw some improvements in a few areas, but a stagnant offense gave the Longhorns a 6-6 record this year, just one more than Charlie Strong got in his final year with the Longhorns in 2016. They never amassed more than a two-game win streak, something they achieved twice, and beat only one Top 25 team this year.

The Horns swallowed a bitter pill at the end of the year, losing to the Texas Tech Red Raiders at DKR at the conclusion of the regular season.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

MISSOURI

Drew Lock: The prolific Lock will be facing a tough Texas defense. The Longhorns ranked 17th in Passing S&P+ Defense this season and 44th in Success Rate, with a mark of 38.1 percent. While they were susceptible to giving up big plays at times, their numbers on the whole were quite good. That being said, Lock will have an easier time than most who’ve faced Texas this year. Thorpe Award finalist DeShon Elliott is skipping the Texas Bowl in order to preserve himself for the upcoming NFL Draft. Elliott was one of the best safeties in the entire country, and without him, the Longhorns will be absent a special player. This could provide Lock with some added confidence against this unit.

Emanuel Hall: As a junior, Emanuel Hall emerged as a big play threat. You don’t have to look too hard to see that, either. Hall averaged 24.8 yards per reception this season. 24.8! On 33 passes, he amassed a whopping 817 receiving yards. He went on a tear down the stretch, grabbing 12 receptions for 326 (a YPR of 27.16!) and four touchdowns. While the Longhorns will have to account for J'Mon Moore, they better account for Hall, too. He’s a home run threat each time he runs a route.

Marcell Frazier: Senior defensive lineman Marcell Frazier was one of the stars on Mizzou’s defense. Frazier posted seven sacks this year, tying a team best set by fellow D-Lineman, Terry Beckner, Jr. He held the team high in TFL with 13.5, proving to be a serious disruption in the backfield. He came away with 12 run stuffs and a forced fumble, while compiling 28.0 total tackles. Against Texas, Frazier will likely be the man to provide even more disruption. Look for him to try and finesse his way into making life miserable for the Longhorns.

TEXAS

Breckyn Hager: With Malik Jefferson’s status for the Texas Bowl in doubt, the Longhorns will have to pin their hopes on Breckyn Hager to get to the QB. Hager tied Jefferson for the team-high in sacks (4.0) in a unit that, overall, wasn’t all that great in getting to the quarterback. That will be super necessary against a prolific QB like Drew Lock, who has the ability to burn a defense rather deftly. Look for the Longhorns to try and get Hager going.

Brandon Jones: Jefferson is not the only high-profile Texas defender to miss the Texas Bowl. The aforementioned DeShon Elliott won’t be playing in the game, so someone in the secondary has to step up. The likeliest choice is Brandon Jones. Jones had a pretty great year as a sophomore. He was a sure tackler, racking up 54 tackles this season. He came away with 4.0 TFL and five run stuffs, proving to be a pretty solid force in the backfield. He didn’t have an INT, but came away with a PBU and a forced fumble. In a game where Missouri’s aerial attack will be the focal point, Jones will have to be one of many Texas DBs to step up.

Someone on Offense: The Longhorns offense has been stagnant all season. Both QBs who saw serious action, that being Shane Buechele and Sam Ehlinger, weren’t particularly terrific. Ehlinger was the team’s leading rusher at just 457 rushing yards, and the leading passer at only 1,803 yards. Collin Johnson was the team’s leading receiver, with 725 yards, but only had two receiving touchdowns. Armanti Foreman led in receiving TDs, but that was with just four. In a game where Mizzou will likely be scoring in bunches, or at least trying to, someone on the Longhorn offense needs to have a breakout game if they want to compete with their gaudy counterpart.