Three questions for the Buckeyes in the Cotton Bowl

The Ohio State football team is looking to end the 2023 season on a winning note.
Ohio State v Michigan
Ohio State v Michigan / Aaron J. Thornton/GettyImages

Before I get too far into the article, I hope each and every person who will read it has had a safe and happy holiday season. No matter if you celebrate a secular or religious holiday, this is such a hectic and busy time of the year, so you have my sincere hopes that you were able to enjoy it.

Now, let us get back to talking about some football, specifically, Ohio State football. It feels like forever since the Buckeyes have taken the field, but it has actually only been about five weeks. Since that unceremonious conclusion to the regular season, Ohio State has had several players announce their intentions to enter the transfer portal, with the most notable player being (now-former) quarterback Kyle McCord.

Even with the news of players departing, the Buckeyes received positive news in the form of several players announcing that they would be playing in the Cotton Bowl, despite possible 2024 NFL Draft declarations a possibility. In today's college football environment, Ohio State's coaches and fans should take pride in so many players opting to participate in a bowl game, when it has become quite customary for players to sit out of non-College Football Playoff contests.

Below are 3 Questions For The Buckeyes In The Cotton Bowl, based upon the backdrop of uncertainty and speculation for the squad, that I will be keeping my eyes and ears open for as the ball kicks off on December 29th at 8pm ET on ESPN...

1. Will Ohio State be relying upon its running game vs. Missouri?

TreVeyon Henderson
Minnesota v Ohio State / Jason Mowry/GettyImages

Will The Buckeyes Rely Heavily Upon TreVeyon Henderson In The Cotton Bowl?

Among the players who decided to enter the transfer portal was Chip Trayanum, who has moved on to Kentucky for the 2024 season. Combined with the announcement of Miyan Williams who will be entering the 2024 NFL Draft, Ohio State had a running back group that was suddenly low on depth for the Cotton Bowl.

TreVeyon Henderson has been participating in Cotton Bowl practices. With Henderson, versatile Xavier Johnson, and Dallan Hayden in the fold, the question then shifts to how much will Ohio State rely upon their talented runners, as Devin Brown will be making his first start at quarterback.

This game against a talented Missouri team represents an early opportunity for Devin Brown to stake his claim as Ohio State's starting quarterback in 2024. Perhaps Ryan Day and the offensive coaching staff will try to control the clock by using Henderson, Johnson, and Hayden, and thus reduce the load placed upon Devin Brown and the Ohio State passing game.

2. Will Denzel Burke be matched up against Missouri's Luther Burden?

Denzel Burke
Ben Jackson/GettyImages

Denzel Burke Is Another Cotton Bowl Participant

Denzel Burke was another of the key Ohio State players who announced that he would be playing against Missouri. Burke has also raised speculation about his future plans for 2024, with his revelation that an announcement about his future will be made on January 10th, 2024.

Among the best players on Missouri's roster is wide receiver Luther Burden III. Burden has caught 83 passes for 1,197 yards and 8 touchdowns, averaging 14.4 yards per reception. As Burden is Missouri's leading receiver, it would make sense for Ohio State to isolate Denzel Burke on him. This could be a key aspect of Ohio State's defensive strategy.

3. Will Ryan Day be aggressive or cautious?

Ryan Day
Which Version Of Ryan Day Will Ohio State Fans See Against Missouri? / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

Ohio State Head Coach Ryan Day has had his share of coaching scrutiny during the 2023 season. From his well-publicized irritation with former Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz earlier in the season, to fans questioning some of Day's on-field decisions versus Michigan, Day has been decidedly under the microscope.

Considering the lack of playing experience Ohio State will have at the quarterback position for The Cotton Bowl, and uncertainty at the running back position, it leads to another question - will Ryan Day be aggressive in his play-calling, or more cautious? It would make sense for Day to borrow a page from one of his Ohio State coaching predecessors legendary Jim Tressel, and try to play a scaled-down style offensively.

Next. Next story. Ohio State might get a transfer QB after all. dark

Missouri is coming into this game 10-2 and may be approaching this game as an opportunity to showcase what they can do against one of the perceived blue-blood programs in college football. The oddsmakers certainly seem to agree that this game is difficult to project, as the line is relatively low (Ohio State is -2.5). No matter how the game turns out, it is my estimation that the answers to the three questions listed up above will be key factors in the eventual outcome.