Ohio State QB Devin Brown slated to make first career start against Missouri in Cotton Bowl

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Ohio State quarterback Devin Brown wears No. 33 in honor of Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Sammy Baugh, who finished his college career sharing MVP honors in the inaugural Cotton Bowl 87 years ago.

When Brown becomes the first Buckeyes quarterback to make his first career start in a bowl, it will be in the Cotton Bowl (Friday, 8 p.m. ET) on Friday night against ninth-ranked Missouri.

“What an experience for me, and pretty cool story to go along with that,” said Brown, the 20-year-old sophomore who hasn’t been in a game since Oct. 21, but will take over after Kyle McCord left Ohio State earlier this month for Syracuse.

Will Kyle McCord’s transfer impact Ohio State greatly vs. Missouri? | Joel Klatt Show

Will Kyle McCord’s transfer impact Ohio State greatly vs. Missouri? | Joel Klatt Show

“He’s a super bubbly, joyous guy to be around,” receiver Emeka Egbuka said. “Great personality. I love that, and I think he’s a great player.”

The seventh-ranked Buckeyes (11-1) are playing for the first time since their 30-24 loss at Michigan in the regular-season finale matching undefeated teams, costing them the opportunity to play for the Big Ten title and a spot in the four-team College Football Playoff. McCord, who beat out Brown for the starting job in a tight preseason race, left in the aftermath of that game.

With All-American running back Cody Schrader, two-year starting quarterback Brady Cook and playmaking receiver Luther Burden III, Missouri (10-2) has a three-game winning streak since opening November with a 30-21 loss at then-No. 1 Georgia. The Tigers entered coach Eliah Drinkwitz’s fourth season coming off consecutive 6–7 records that included bowl losses.

“I think the biggest change I’ve seen is the closeness of our brotherhood and the trust that we’ve built. I think last year there was still maybe a little distrust. We had a lot of new players from the portal,” said Schrader, the former walk-on now leading the nation in rushing (124.9 yards per game) like he also did at the NCAA Division II level. “We had another whole offseason together to bond, build that relationship.”

Baugh wore No. 45 for TCU in that Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day 1937, but “Slingin’ Sammy” donned No. 33 throughout his 16 NFL seasons — all for Washington — after being a first-round draft pick. Brown said he started playing quarterback when he was 8 years old, and was wearing No. 33 when his dad told him stories about Baugh. Brown initially had No. 15 with the Buckeyes, but switched to No. 33 last spring.

Brown has appeared in seven games in his two seasons with Ohio State, attempting only 22 passes. He completed 12 of those for 197 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, but now gets a chance to set a tone going into 2024.

“Everybody in this game has got an opportunity to build some momentum for next year. And Devin’s exactly in that situation. This is exactly what he wanted,” Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said. “As of right now, I mean, he’s our quarterback, and we’re moving forward, and this is a great opportunity for him to go build more confidence with the guys around him as we head into next season.”

Will Top Draft Prospect Harrison Play?

Marvin Harrison Jr., a two-time All-American selection, is expected to be one of the top picks if he declares for the NFL draft. While the third-year wide receiver is with the Buckeyes at the Cotton Bowl this week, he was mostly on the side when practice sessions were open to reporters.

When asked specifically on Thursday if Harrison would play, Day said he wouldn’t answer that question about Harrison or any other players.

“I feel like those are decisions that players make, they and their families. And so I never want to be the one to go out and put it out there,” Day said. “Our guys have been great and professional. These guys want to win the game. So we’ll know here in about 24 hours.”

Harrison has 155 catches for 2,613 yards and 31 touchdowns in his 38 games for the Buckeyes.

Strong Defenses

Missouri’s defense has forced 35 sacks and leads the SEC with its plus-9 turnover margin (18 takeaways, nine giveaways).

Ohio State allows only 259.9 total yards per game, which ranks third nationally. The Buckeyes are the nation’s top passing defense, allowing only 147 yards per game, and give up only 11 points a game.

Good Memories

The Cotton Bowl is played at AT&T Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, where the first national championship of the four-team College Football Playoff era was determined — and won by the Buckeyes to finish the 2014 season.

Ohio State has won its two previous Cotton Bowls, against Texas A&M on New Year’s Day 1987 when the game was still in its namesake stadium, and over USC exactly six years ago on Friday.

Missouri is 2-1 in the Cotton Bowl. The Tigers lost to Texas on New Year’s Day 1946, but beat Arkansas when returning to the game 62 years later and won at AT&T Stadium against Oklahoma State at the end of the 2013 season.

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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