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ARLINGTON, Tx-Blame it on transfer portals.

Blame it on NIL defections.

Blame it on a bowl system that thankfully will be restructured with a 12-team playoff system, where there will be consequences for bowl mis-deeds.

Blame it on the bossa nova (Google it).

In case you missed it--and I hope you did--No. 9 Missouri faced off against No. 7 Ohio State in the 88th Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium on Friday night in the first of what the College Football Playoff system has labeled as its New Year's Six bowl games, which have rotated in the current 4-team playoff system.

But there were no national championship contenders in 2023 coming out of the Cotton Bowl.

The two winners in 2023 were the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, which will match No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 4 Alabama, and No. 2 Washington vs. No. 3 Georgia in the semifinals on January 1.

The leftovers in a bowl system, which has swollen to 42 inconsequential matchups, has been a series of inconsequential games between teams with mediocre records.

Ohio State and Missouri hoped to offer more.

What the sell-out crowd at Jerry's World got was less, much less than that in a game that produced one of the most offensively inept first halves in college football history, in which the Buckeyes held a shaky 3-0 lead. In a half in which no one came close to entering the red zone, 12 of the 13 offensive series ended with punts and the two teams were a combined 1 of 15 on third down conversions.

The only thing missing was a piped-in version of Sinatra singing "Send in the Clowns.''

The second half was marginally better--mainly because it couldn't have been worse than the first 30 minutes. 

Then finally, the fourth quarter.

Much to the delight of the thousands of Missouri fans who turned AT&T Stadium into a Mizzu Watch Party--Ohio State heard boos most of the night--quarterback Brady Cook, scored two TDs, including a 13-play 91-yard drive to seal what became a 14-3 victory, leaving Coach Eliah Drinkwitz's team with a very solid 11-2 record and a Top-10 ranking.

The Buckeyes were in a funk from losing for the third-straight time to Michigan, but no one else could beat them.

Coach Ryan Day's main task was to motivate a team without its starting quarterback, Kyle McCord, who opted for the transfer portal after learning that the Buckeyes were searching for a better QB.

They were also missing All American and sure high National Football League first-round draft pick Marvin Harrison Jr., who chose not to take a risk playing in a game that had no real value.

Not helping the matter was the coating of rust coming from a team that had not put on its shoulder pads in anger since the loss to Michigan on November 25. Added to the mix was the starting debut of sophomore QB Devin Brown, who was hampered by a high ankle sprain.

That left the Buckeyes with freshman Lincoln Kienholtz facing a mission impossible.

It was an auspicious start to the New Year's Six Bowl package the CFP has tried to sell for 10 years as a defining line between "major'' and "minor'' bowls.

Which left Ohio State and Missouri staring each other down with varying degrees of motivation of being part of a New Year's Six production, but NOT part of a chase for the national championship.

Missouri has never been part of the CFP elite.

Ohio State has almost always been there. 

A year ago, the Buckeyes were within a wide-left field goal attempt against Georgia in a 42-41 loss in the semifinals.

The Buckeyes have finished in the Top 10 in postseason polls for 10 straight seasons. They made CFP appearances in 2016, 2019, 2020 and 2022.

Day has been even more impressive since being elevated to head coach 5 years ago, during which time he has posted a 56-7 overall record, 39-3 vs. the Big Ten. No Big Ten team other than Michigan has beaten Day. 

The bottom line is that the Buckeyes seldom lose to bad teams, and other than Michigan, few good teams have been able to handle the Buckeyes.

Missouri tried to change that trend on Friday night, but could not do that immediately  because the highly regarded OSU defense showed some teeth.

In the second half, the only realistic goal for both teams was to somehow put together one drive that could salvage the evening.

Missouri put two of them together, giving the Tigers a sense of satisfaction for a job well done, although on this particular night it took a while to achieve that.

"We're a bunch of wilderness brotherhood guys who stick together, fight together, found a way to love each other's back,'' said Drinkwitz

The Tigers should enjoy the moment. 

They deserved it, but in the annals of CFB history this game will be remembered for what it wasn't rather than what it was--a footnote in the 10-year history of system which is close to being over.

For Day, it was another frustrating conclusion to a season which needs better finishes.

"Bottom line is that when you look it as a whole we didn't get it done,'' said Day.