Missouri’s Dorial Green-Beckham is a massive wide receiver at 6 feet, 6 inches and 225 pounds.
Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert is big for a cornerback at 6 feet and 200 pounds.
When the ninth-ranked Tigers and 13th-ranked Cowboys clash at 7 p.m. Friday in the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium, the matchup between Green-Beckham and Gilbert promises to be among the more intriguing games within the game.
“It’s a great matchup,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “You’re looking at two potential first-round draft picks. When you have that type of talent competing against each other, it will always be a lot of fun.”
Of course, Green-Beckham, a sophomore from Springfield, Mo., isn’t draft eligible until next year.
However, Gilbert, a senior from Huntsville, Texas, projects as a possible first-round pick in May’s NFL Draft. CBS Sports grades him as the third best cornerback available.
“Justin Gilbert is a very athletic guy — great speed, great footwork, fundamentally sound,” Missouri senior wide receiver L’Damian Washington said. “Whenever you step in against a guy like that, you better make sure you’re prepared to bring your best focus.”
Missouri, 11-2, says it’s hard to pinpoint any weaknesses in Gilbert’s game.
“He does a lot of things right,” senior wide receiver Marcus Lucas said. “He might get beat sometimes, but he has that great makeup speed that you can’t really teach. He has a good knack for the ball and gets his head around. He plays a lot like (Tigers senior cornerback) E.J. (Gaines), so he’s definitely a good player.”
Green-Beckham said Gilbert might be the best cornerback Missouri has faced, comparing him to Florida’s Loucheiz Purifoy and Vanderbilt’s Andre Hal. Both are also tall corners with shut-down ability.
“He plays the same, but he’s a little longer and he deflects passes well,” Green-Beckham said.
Gilbert also won’t be intimidated by Green-Beckham, who is tied with a team-high 55 catches for 830 yards with a team-best 12 touchdowns this season. He welcomes the challenge.
“If you back away from a challenge like that, then I don’t want to be around you and I don’t want any teammates like that,” Gilbert said. “I love the competition and I’m blessed to have the opportunity to go against (Green-Beckham).”
In fact, Gilbert plans to seek out the matchup as often as possible.
“If I’m not on the side with him, I’m going to run over to guard him,” Gilbert said. “I’m going to be looking for him the whole game.”
Missouri’s ability to throw the ball against an Oklahoma State secondary that ranks fourth in the nation with 20 interceptions, including a team-high six by Gilbert, likely will be pivotal.
“Our receivers against their secondary is probably going to be the difference in the game at least when we’re on the field,” Lucas said. “It’s going to dictate a lot of the things that we’re able to do on offense.”
The Cowboys, 10-2, rank ninth in the nation with a defensive passing efficiency rating of 106.65. Gilbert is among the reasons for that success.
“It won’t be easy, but I hope we’ll have a little more success than them come Friday,” Missouri senior quarterback James Franklin said.
Perhaps on Green-Beckham’s specialty, the end-zone fade route. He says no cornerback in the country can stop him on the fade, but Gilbert is eager to try and stop him.
“Most definitely, but we’ll find out when the game starts,” Gilbert said. “I can jump pretty good, (but) he has very strong hands, so I’m going to have to do a good job catching the ball in the air and hopefully not let him touch the ball first.”