Usually this section is reserved for all the fun, nerdy-yet-endearing stuff Eli Drinkwitz will pop up with in any given week. But apparently Drinkwitz left all his weird uncle energy in Columbia this week, because his Tuesday presser felt more grim than anything.
At least three of Mizzou's four captains won't play in the Armed Forces Bowl: Tyler Badie, Martez Manuel, Case Cook.— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) December 21, 2021
The fourth is QB Connor Bazelak.
It was Drinkwitz’s decision for Badie not to play. https://t.co/PTqE7sFm1x— emily leiker (saw spiderman:nwh) (@emleiker) December 21, 2021
Look, I get it. If you asked me whether or not Badie should play on Wednesday, I would say that 100 percent without a doubt he should not. Tyler Badie proved everything he possibly could during the regular season and his focus should be completely on securing the highest draft position possible.
But it was fun to imagine that he’d get one more crack at it. Kudos to Eli Drinkwitz for stepping in and making the call. Although I could have done without all the other absences, for which I am going to entirely blame him for no apparent reason.
Came Through Drippin’
Missouri will be going with a patriotic block M. I’d imagine Army will wear their blacks since this game is mostly military themed, so it makes sense to see Mizzou in a white top, but the black pants over gold?
What the “Experts” are saying
- It’s a pretty even split at CBS Sports, where four of the staff are picking Army while the other three have Missouri coming out ahead.
- Athlon Sports has Army eking out a close win over the Tigers, and that was before Missouri announced the players who would be out.
- Our sister site Against All Enemies didn’t seem to get the memo that Missouri’s run defense isn’t as bad as it looked through September and October, but they do factor in that Tyler Badie won’t be playing on Wednesday.
- Pat Forde says to “not overthink it” when analyzing Army’s rush attack vs. Missouri’s rushing defense which is... you know what, we won’t get into it here.
Despite having bowl eligible records for the past two seasons, Wednesday will mark Mizzou’s first bowl appearance since 2018. Are you excited to be involved in postseason football again, or has bowl season in the CFP era lost its luster for you?
Josh Matejka, Deputy Site Manager: Honestly, I think it might be the opposite. On the whole I care much less about all the random bowls that get played across the country, but I don’t know that I cared much about those before. I still care very much about how Missouri performs, and I think I care even more now that there’s an actual playoff in place! Would I like to see more teams get a shot at that final bracket? Sure. Does that answer tie directly into Missouri’s chances of ever making the CFP? You decide.
Nate Edwards, Football Editor: Do I care about every bowl game? No. Do I care about bowl games that my team is in? Yes. As the revered poet Alfred Lloyd Tennyson once put, “‘Tis better to have bowled and lost than to have never bowled at all and kansas sucks” so who am I to disagree with one of the most accomplished poets in human history?
Parker Gillam, Football Beat Writer: You aren’t a football fan if your answer is no. In the era of opt-outs and the playoff, sure bowl games have lost their worth to the casual fan. But these games still mean a ton to these programs, especially the seniors playing in their final games. Also, who doesn’t want to watch more college football? Christmas/New Year’s is synonymous with bowl season, and I hope that never changes.
Sammy Stava, Staff Writer: I mean, it’s another Mizzou game to watch and their last one of the season, so of course I’ll watch. Would I be more excited for this one if it was the Liberty, Music, or Texas Bowl? Yes. I love bowl season, but it’s a pre-Christmas bowl game on a Wednesday night, and that’s just not going to generate a whole lot of buzz. They’re playing in a bowl game for the first time since 2018, so that’s the most important thing. On a scale of 1-10, I guess my excitement level would be about a five.
Levi Hutmacher, Digital Media Producer: Of course I am excited for Mizzou to be in a postseason game! Anytime we get to watch more Mizzou football I am in. Now, the opponent being Army might make it less of an exciting game, but I am here for more Tiger football. The CFP is still great, especially because a fellow block-M school is in the hunt for a national title, as is much of bowl season.
The roster seemed pretty set for Wednesday before Eli Drinkwitz’s Tuesday press conference when he announced that Tyler Badie, Case Cook, Martez Manuel and Connor Bazelak would not be playing in the bowl game. Does this give him an excuse to run out the young guns, or does he still lean on the vets as much as possible?
Josh Matejka: I suppose the answer is both? Missouri will be without a bunch of key contributors against Army, including all four captains and a handful of solid depth pieces. That doesn’t leave much room for Drinkwitz to play with, especially if he wants to go all out and get that seventh win. Get ready to see a mixture of wiley vets (Blaze Alldredge, engage!) and some youngsters who are looking for something to prove.
Nate Edwards: If we’ve learned anything over Drinkwitz’s 22 games in charge, it’s that he will always play the guys who he believes give him the best chance to win and he tends to believe that vets give him the best chance to win. This team has so much young talent and old...uh...Odom-guys on the squad that you have to think that this would be a prime opportunity to get a head start on 2022 by putting the young guns into action. On the other hand, you want to respect the upperclassmen who went through some s*** and give them a chance to play themselves off the field on their terms. Prepare to have a long farewell to the elders on this roster and we’ll see the youth-movement in ‘22.
Levi Hutmacher, Digital Media Producer: I think even before these guys weren’t going to play, the bowl game would have been a good excuse to bring out the young guys. A win would be great, but a bowl game loss-if not the CFP-really isn’t a massive blow to the gut. I see it more as an opportunity to get more practice time in and get some of your young core and next season’s leaders to step up. And it looks like we just might get that opportunity in seeing Brady Cook start. However, the past has shown us that Drink is pretty locked in on playing the older, experienced guys. I think we are going to see a nice mix of veterans and the up and comers.
We’ve covered the difficulties of playing Army, or really any school that runs the triple option. And despite Missouri boasting a much-improved run game throughout the season, they’ve had just under a month to prepare for the Black Knights. How do you see Steve Wilks’ unit performing?
Josh Matejka: I want to be optimistic, but I have a sneaking suspicion that things may get ugly. One of the main issues the defense had in the first half was staying disciplined, a vital component to success against the triple option. Even though they figured it out over the last few weeks, the challenge of facing Army is so unique that I can’t help but think those struggles may return. I don’t think that negates the improvements they made through the season... it just sucks to play the triple option!
Nate Edwards: The option has a tendency to make every defense look dumb, that’s why service academies run it. Luckily this Army offense is not nearly as effective at running it as past iterations but if you thought we had seen the last of our linebacking corps floating out of position, boy, get ready! I do think this team will be mentally ready but it’s quite a bit different when you’re getting your knees cut out from under you and facing 15-20-play drives that keep you on the field for 9-game minutes. Missouri will see some success but I believe that Army will be able to comfortably dictate the flow of this game.
Parker Gillam: Very tough to call. This defense has a lot of momentum and appears to have grasped Wilks’ system. However, the triple option has a way of derailing any trends a team may have. I don’t see Army scoring more than 28, but by no means will this Tiger defense dominate this game. They will give up plenty of yards, and they will lose the time of possession battle. If they can force field goals when the Black Knights get into scoring position, then they can consider this game a success.
Sammy Stava: I think it might not be pretty, but I think we’ll see a respectable effort. This defense has improved under Wilks, but I have no idea what to expect because on paper, this is an extremely tough match up. To be fair though, stopping the triple option is probably going to be difficulty for a lot of teams out there.
Levi Hutmacher, Digital Media Producer: I don’t think we are going to see the defense perform as well as it has the past few weeks, as this is a different offensive beast than what they have faced this year. Plus, you add on some key missing defensive personnel and our Tigers might run in to some issues. However, not having to really worry about a passing attack could help the Wilks and this defense focus in on stopping Army’s run game. Will they have impressive rushing numbers? Probably. But that’s just what happens when you face a team like Army.
BONUS QUESTION: With Bazelak out for the bowl, Brady Cook is going to be the new QB1 against the Black Knights. How does Cook’s style of play affect the way Missouri will attack Army’s defense?
Josh Matejka: Brady Cook offers you a QB with much of the same skillset as Bazelak. He’s efficient and risk averse, but has the ability to go deep if you absolutely need to. He’s also a more willing runner than Baze, which may help a Tiger team that’s missing its All American running back. I’d look for Drinkwitz to test Cook’s arm strength more than he was willing to with Bazelak, if only to get a look at how it grades out in live action.
Nate Edwards: Cook is a more-mobile Bazelak so I don’t think we’re going to see much of a shift in offensive identity. Drinkwitz and Luper will probably rotate through their running back stable to try and find a hot hand while Cook keeps the same safe, risk-adverse passing game matriculating down the field 4-5 yards at a time. I do hope that we see Cook keep a few zone-read options just so I can be reminded of the sweet, delicious advantage a running quarterback can bring to an offense.
Levi Hutmacher, Digital Media Producer: I don’t thin we will see a massive difference from Baze to Brady. I do think we might see more down-the-field throws, risk taking, and scrambling from Brady Cook. He plays with just a little more flash and isn’t afraid to move around in and out of the pocket. I would love to see Drink pull out a few tricky or daring plays that test the young gun.
PICK ‘EM! DraftKings has Missouri as a -6.5 dog to Army, which is understandable considering the amount of players the Tigers are missing. Can Missouri win its first bowl game since 2015? If so, who powers the Tigers to a win?
Josh Matejka: I wasn’t feeling particularly confident about this game before Missouri ruled out a healthy portion of their starters, so you can imagine how I’m feeling now. I don’t think Army will ever fully put this game away because it’s not what they’re designed to do. But without Tyler Badie, I’m not sure how Missouri musters enough offense to get out ahead of Army. I’ll take the Black Knights by a score of 34-27.
Nate Edwards: In a rare display of positivity in the face of tricky opposition I said 31-28 Missouri. With no Badie and no Martez Manuel I think Army will win and cover to the tune of 28-17.
Levi Hutmacher, Digital Media Producer: In the face of adversity, I am going to look at the bright side of things and say Brady Cook will bring a new spark to this offense that has been missing all season, leaving the wide outs inspired and making some nice plays. The defense gives up quite a bit of yardage to Army’s tough-to-stop triple option, but comes away with a timely takeaway in the second half to bring Mizzou ahead and at the end of the game a W for Drink and Mizzou. Mizzou wins a good one 27 - 17. (I am usually terribly wrong with predictions. Maybe I am right this time.)
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.