Bowl Breakdown: Cotton

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t1_maclin.jpg's Gennaro Filice analyzes the matchup.

While many Georgia, Oklahoma and Hawaii fans believe their teams should be playing in the national title game, no school feels more slighted by the BCS than Missouri. In the final week of the regular season, Missouri beat Kansas to take the Big 12 North title and earn a spot in the conference title game. But after the Tigers (ranked No. 1 at the time) suffered their second loss of the season to Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game, they didn't just fall out of the national title game, they fell out of the BCS altogether. The Fiesta Bowl chose one-loss Kansas over Mizzou.

Offensively, there are few teams that boast as much firepower as the Tigers. It all starts with Heisman finalist Chase Daniel. In his second year as Mizzou's starting QB, the plucky junior has mastered Gary Pinkel's high-flying, no-huddle offense. Daniel's ability to read defenses has allowed him to throw for over 250 yards in 11 games this season. Of course, it doesn't hurt to be surrounded by such a talented receiving corps. Missouri boasts two top-tier tight ends in Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman, who combined for 132 catches for 1,338 and 15 touchdowns. And Jeremy Maclin may be college football's next big thing; the WR/KR set a freshman record for all-purpose yardage (2,813).

Missouri's defense is a middle-of-the-pack group. The Tigers D had its moments during the season (holding high-powered Texas Tech to just 10 points), but the unit is far from impenetrable. With Arkansas on the horizon, Missouri faithful can take comfort in the fact that the defense is serviceable against the run. Junior William Moore is drawing a lot of NFL attention for his play-making ability. The free safety led the Big 12 with seven interceptions.

Following a tumultuous offseason, the Razorbacks couldn't repeat as SEC West champions. And although it was easy to see that Houston Nutt's days were numbered in Fayetteville, nobody could have predicted the Razorbacks would hire Bobby Petrino prior to the bowl game. Defensive coordinator Reggie Herring will coach the bowl game, though, so Arkansas will concentrate on running the ball for one more game before Petrino's aerial overhaul.

It's no secret that the Razorbacks like to keep the ball on the ground, and who wouldn't with the talent Arkansas possesses in its backfield. Junior Darren McFadden -- the Heisman runner-up for a second straight year -- may be the most talented player in college football. A projected top-three pick if he chooses to enter the '08 NFL draft, McFadden boasts a rare mix of speed and power. Junior Felix Jones is no slouch himself, and could bolt to the NFL as well. Even fullback Peyton Hillis has been extremely productive in Arkansas' past two games (22 carries, 154 yards).

Defensively, Arkansas has proven effective against the pass -- the Razorbacks rank fifth nationally in pass efficiency defense. Daniel would be wise to stay away from versatile corner Michael Grant.

In this battle between Heisman finalists, expect both Daniel and McFadden to perform at a high level. But in the end, Daniel's surrounding cast is superior and the Tigers will prevail in their first New Year's Day bowl since the 1970 Orange Bowl.

The pick: Missouri 45, Arkansas 33