Longhorns will face familiar foe in familiar locale in Texas Bowl
The good news is that the Texas Longhorns will play in the postseason for the first time since 2014 when they square off against former Big 12 Conference foe Missouri in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl in Houston on Dec. 27 at NRG Stadium
Kickoff at the home of the Houston Texans is at 8 p.m. CST and the game will be televised on ESPN.
The bad news is that the Longhorns have drawn one of the hottest teams in the country while they attempt to post their first winning season since 2013. Missouri (7-5), which now competes in the Southeastern Conference, won its final six regular-season games after starting 2017 at 1-5. Those wins, however, were all against teams that finished below .500 for the season.
Texas has known it would be playing in a bowl since it beat West Virginia on Nov. 18 to secure its sixth win of the season. The Longhorns then went out and produced a turkey on the day after Thanksgiving, losing to Texas Tech and failing to clinch a winning season.
For the vast majority of Texas' players, bowl practice was something totally new when the Longhorns got back to work on Dec. 1.
"Guys were flying around, they were excited to be a part of the postseason, excited to play football," Texas coach Tom Herman said. "The sting [from losing to Tech] is gone already; we're looking forward to this."
"When you win a bowl game, they call you a champion," Herman said. "We've got an opportunity now to play for a championship and send these seniors out the right way. These extra practices will also help develop our program and get a lot of momentum headed into the offseason."
Texas and Missouri have played 23 times, with the Longhorns owning a 17-6 all-time record. The two schools last met in 2011 and have met just once previously in a bowl game a 40-27 Longhorn victory in the 1946 Cotton Bowl. Texas has won 15 of the last 17 meetings against Missouri, dating back to 1931.
The Longhorns (6-6) feature one of the nation's top defensive units, as they are tied for the national lead in non-offensive touchdowns (seven), defensive touchdowns (six) and interceptions returned for a touchdown (five).
Texas leads the Big 12 Conference in third- and fourth-down defense, defensive touchdowns and first-down defense, while ranking second in interceptions, rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, sacks, total defense and turnovers gained.
Despite facing seven teams ranked in the Top 36 for scoring offense, including the third- and fourth-ranked teams, Texas has allowed just 21.7 points per game and ranks 31st in that category. That marks significant improvement from a season ago, when Texas ranked 90th in scoring defense.
Three Longhorns garnered Big 12 Players of the Year honors in their respective categories at the end of the regular season. Senior captain Poona Ford was named the Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year, while junior punter Michael Dickson was named Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. Junior linebacker Malik Jefferson was the Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year.
Missouri (7-5) secured bowl eligibility on Nov. 18 with a victory at Vanderbilt and have won six straight games, most recently a 48-45 triumph at Arkansas to finish the regular season.
It will be the Tigers' first bowl appearance since Gary Pinkel's 2014 team beat Minnesota in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, 2015. Mizzou is 15-16 all-time in bowl games.
The Tigers' boast a quarterback in Drew Lock might have been the best passer in the nation at the end of the regular season, finishing with a nation-high 43 touchdowns, two more than Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield, the presumptive Heisman Trophy winner.
Lock is the only Power 5 quarterback this century to pass for at least three touchdowns passes in eight-straight games. He holds school records for most 400-yard games (five) and games with five TD passes (six).