♫ I’m So Sophisticated ♫
A helmet. That’s all we get uniform-wise, I guess. It features a nice tribute to Mike Leach, however.
What’s On Tap?
I have to say, Demon Deacons is a kickass mascot name. Even if the intimidation factor doesn’t quite extend to the actual presentation, the hellish nature of Wake’s name lends itself to all sorts of creative cocktail possibilities. When Googling “hell cocktails” you are presented with any number of options:
- What the Hell?
- Highway to Hell
- Hell’s Fury
The one that stands out to me, though, is the Gates of Hell. It hits a lot of the notes that I enjoy in cocktails — citrus, some tequila and a bit of brandy. I’ll be making lots of drinks around the holiday, so I need something unpretentious and simple for the game.
Recipe and image courtesy of The Drink Mixer Club:
1 tsp - Cherry Brandy
2 tsps - Lemon Juice
2 tsps - Lime Juice
1.5 parts - Tequila
Shake ingredients with ice. Strain into glass almost filled with ice. Drizzle the cherry brandy over the top.
Know Thy Enemy
Have you ever felt good about a Mizzou Football game — that wasn’t a buy game — going in? Especially a bowl game? Nate Edwards hasn’t, and he’s terrified.
Mizzou’s offense is facing a defense that gives up the one thing the Tigers need to move the ball, and Mizzou’s defense is facing an offense that can’t utilize their kryptonite. This is why I’m feeling good about this game and...man...I don’t like it. Feeling confident about a Mizzou bowl game? Impossible! Absurd!
When Mizzou squares up against Wake Forest on Friday, they’ll be facing a team that sits in their direct vicinity of the SP+ rankings. Should be a toss up, correct? You’d be right, but the season-long trends make this a tastier matchup for the Tigers than you may think.
For instance, Wake Forest’s defense is not good and that was before they lost two of their best defensive backs. They’re especially prone to giving up explosive plays and, lo and behold, that plays right into Mizzou’s hands.
Whether it be on the ground (66th) or the air (91st), the Deac’s defense against explosive plays sits at 106th overall, while Mizzou boasts the 50th best explosive offense in the country. Cody [Schrader] and Luther [Burden] need to get that oxygen ready because they need to break some big plays on these dudes consistently.
On offense, Wake Forest is pretty damn good — 8th in the country to be exact. They’ll be missing two of their top three running backs, but Wake’s success mostly comes in the quick passing game. They’re not especially explosive, so having Kris Abrams-Draine and Ennis Rakestraw, Jr. in the fold will be crucial. Not having DJ Coleman and Isaiah McGuire on the line will be a bummer, but Wake’s offensive line will still be susceptible to giving up havoc, something Mizzou’s defense can produce plenty of.
Wake gives up a lot of havoc plays, ranking 73rd in the country. The offensive line is ok at keeping defenders out of the backfield during the run but give up way too many pressures and sacks. It’s a shame that Isaiah McGuire and D.J. Coleman will be missing this game because they could have had an absolute party. Alas, Trajan Jeffcoat, Ty’Ron Hopper, and all their friends will have to create that havoc instead...
Good matchups? An offense that’s been clicking as of late? Returning most of your key contributors? Forgive me if I’m feeling a bit queasy at the prospect of confidence.
The season ended not a month ago and yet this team feels almost entirely different already. Be honest: has bowl season been ruined for you because of players skipping or leaving their programs?
Nate Edwards, Football Editor: You can’t ruin something if you don’t care for it in the first place! The purpose of bowl games for me is to have something on the TV with family around that’s non-invasive and (usually) not a topic that kickstarts a family feud. Do you get the stray comment from an uncle or grandfather that dog-whistles his way through some ham-fisted complaint about “kids these days” and “earning it” and “spoiled generation”? The potential is there, sure! But, for the most part, it’s something people can safely watch. The game your team is in holds some actual interest, sure, but I don’t watch bowl games unless 1.) Mizzou is playing, 2.) there’s an extremely awesome matchup, or 3.) family gatherings are happening. And, by those parameters, opt-outs and transfers just don’t ruffle me at all.
Parker Gillam, Beat Writer: Ruined is a strong word. The magic and fun of the bowl season still remains, but I do agree that it feels almost like a separate season. If anything, bowl season nowadays feels like more of a start to the next season as opposed to a conclusion to the previous one. Most teams will look more similar to their 2023 roster than they did their 2022 roster in bowl games.
Obviously, I’d love to see all of the top talent compete in their bowl games, but that’s just not the reality of football today, and I generally think that these athletes are making the right decisions in not playing. Plus, it’s always fun to see how some new faces and unheralded guys fare on a bowl-game environment. Who knows, maybe we’ll uncover a new star against the Demon Deacons.
Josh Matejka, Deputy Site Manager: I don’t know if it’s ruined as much as it’s cemented the fact that these are mainly exhibition games with a trophy and some money attached.
Think about it in terms of another sport. How would you feel if your favorite baseball team played in the playoffs after their starting shortstop for 162 games decided he was leaving the team? How would you feel if your team’s best three-point shooter decided after the regular season that he was sitting out the playoffs to start working on his next big contract? It’s not 1-to-1, but the team that “got you there” no longer feels intact.
Mizzou will be entering the Gasparilla Bowl without its best offensive player. Wake Forest will show up having lost one of its starting running backs and two of its best defensive backs. Their QB could also be on the move soon, though he looks likely to play in the bowl game. It’s hard to get emotionally attached to these games when the players you’ve built a kinship with can up and vanish in an instant.
Levi Hutmacher, Digital Media Producer: I wouldn’t say that bowl season has been ruined, I just think it’s become less important. A win would be cool, but it doesn’t hold as much weight as it used to. But did it really even hold any weight if your team wasn’t in the College Football Playoff or BCS Championship?
Now, I know a lot of people are not super pleased with the idea of an expanded playoff system, but guess what? It’s happening! And I am excited! I think this is a nice and natural way to bring a little more excitement and importance to the postseason games, as well as regular season games. And it also keeps teams like Mizzou in the mix for a national championship run if the stars ever align.
In the end, these are college kids who are playing a sport where safety has usually taken a backseat to other issues. If you can save your body some turmoil in the hopes of focusing on where you might land in the draft? Go for it. It’s your life, pal. We will continue to root for Mizzou and get excited to see some new faces that could become regulars on the field in the season(s) to come.
Mizzou’s staff got a bit of shakeup with QB coach and de-facto OC Bush Hamdan leaving Mizzou for Boise State. Does that make any difference in the bowl game? And who would you like to see follow in Hamdan’s steps as the next “OC”?
Nate Edwards: The biggest difference I could see between Drink’s play calling and Hamdan’s was an increase of usage (and effectiveness) of Brady Cook running with a slight decrease in usage (and effectiveness) of Cody Schrader running. To wit, Cook had more yardage and his three best rushing success rates while Hamdan was calling plays while Schrader two of his three worst success rates under Hamdan. Drink was on the headset for those games so he knows what was called and what was relayed so, unless he wants to deemphasize Brady and re-emphasize Cody, I can’t imagine it’s going to be all that different.
Regarding the next OC: I don’t care. I highly doubt Drink brings in a guy and adopts his playbook so, really, you’re just looking for a guy who can run the quarterback room, manage the offensive side for practices, recruit his ass off, and call plays on gameday. There’s hundreds of guys who can do that well, just pick one. Drink’s offensive hiring tendency skews towards guys he’s worked with before, however, so it’s really a pool of about 10-12 guys. Of that litter, having Casey Woods come back would be cool but, again, I don’t particularly care.
Parker Gillam: I would hope not, just because I would think that Drinkwitz will bottle up what he and Hamdan had in those final games and attempt to replicate it with someone else. For now, I’m unsure of who that may be, but I think Drinkwitz did realize that it is important to have some levels of input when it comes to the play-calling, even if he is the one still in charge.
As for who I would like to see takeover, maybe go for a guy like Joey Halzle at Tennessee. The Vols’ quarterbacks coach has had plenty of success in his first two seasons and has experience being at Mizzou with Heupel (2016).
Josh Matejka: It’s not as if Bush Hamdan made a world-altering difference as a play-caller, though the offense did seem to be picking up during the time he reportedly took over. I can’t imagine Eli Drinkwitz is going to make major changes in Tampa.
It’s not an unknown name by any means, but I have to think Eli Drinkwitz will be giving Casey Woods a call. He’s got familiarity with the program and ran a very good SMU offense this season. With the bump in Drinkwitz’s staff pool just sitting there, I imagine he could get a nice pay raise too.
Levi Hutmacher: Bush leaving probably won’t make much of a difference with this offense. Drink has seemed to have control of the offense since he became head coach, so missing a QB coach and puppet offensive coordinator shouldn’t do much harm.
As far as who I would want to see as an OC, I would like to see someone who is able to push Drink’s limits as a head coach. By this I mean being able to help relieve him of offensive control and help him acclimate to being just a head coach who can focus on other, important things. Like, you know, in-game decision making. I would also love to have someone at the helm who could take a few more risks with this talented receiving corps and unlock some more potential in Brady, or whoever he QB will be next season. Let’s see some passes past the goal line!
Wake Forest and Mizzou couldn’t be a better match for each other, landing right next to each other in Bill C’s final SP+ rankings. What could be the margin that separates the two on Friday night?
Nate Edwards: The answer for any non-Playoff bowl is interest level, frankly. We know tendencies and averages for the season but most of these teams have been off for three weeks and, with the holidays near, there could be plenty of guys checked out and ready to end the season. So the cop-out answer is whichever side is motivated and prepared the best.
If season-wide tendencies hold, however: Wake’s offense wants to grind their way down the field with short, successful plays. They don’t break big plays often but we know Mizzou’s defense gives them up. If Wake is connecting on many explosive plays the Tigers are cooked. On the flip side, Mizzou’s offense is much better being an explosive offense than a steady, efficient offense and the Deac’s defense is happy to let you run very far before being tackled. However, if Wake’s terrible defense is creating havoc then Mizzou doesn’t have a chance.
Parker Gillam: Whoever can create more explosive plays. Both of these teams have some solid skill position talent, and both have been able to be explosive when need be. With so many opt-outs, defensive breakdowns may be a concern in this one, which should bode well for an experienced QB in Sam Hartman and a Missouri offense that has taken plenty of shots in recent games.
For the Tigers, they have to limit A.T. Perry in jump-ball situations. For Wake Forest, they have to contain Luther Burden out-wide, especially off screen passes. Whoever can steal some points off of chunk plays will be the victor.
Josh Matejka: Nate’s preview made me feel pretty good about the way Mizzou matches up with the Demon Deacons, especially after reading the part about WF’s penchant for giving up explosive plays. Mizzou has had the mind to air it out lately, and they’ll be working with a suite of young receivers who are eager to step up in Dominic Lovett’s absence.
As for the defense, I have to imagine they’ll be trying to get to Sam Hartman early. The QB has one foot out the door already, and I don’t think he’s going to want to mess up his next NIL deal by taking an injury against a .500 Mizzou team in Tampa. Put a few big hits on him early on and see if he mentally checks out.
Levi Hutmacher: I honestly know nothing about Wake Forest this season, other than we flipped one of their commits. Which makes me believe we are better than them and we will win. I think that if the defense is able to play like they have been all season and can limit some explosive plays, then Mizzou has a fairly good chance at coming out with a victory.
As for the offense, I hope Drink opens up the playbook a little more and takes some shots on new plays we haven’t seen yet. If we can have Brady use his legs like he has been the last few games and let Luther loose, we could see some nice drives that result in points.
PICK ‘EM! DraftKings has Mizzou as a one-point underdog, which is essentially a toss-up. So let’s keep it simple: who’s winning and who’s showing out in Tampa?
Nate Edwards: The few times that I’ve publicly picked Missouri this year they have lost so, for everyone’s health and happiness, I’ll say Wake Forest by 3. Sam Hartman goes crazy and then transfers to Tennessee.
Parker Gillam: This was easily one of the toughest picks of the bowl season. But, with the amount of opt-outs on the D-line for Mizzou and Wake Forest’s slow-mesh scheme, I just don’t trust the Tigers to be able to hang on the scoreboard. The slow-mesh is so unique and tough to defend, and having a bunch of new faces seeing significant playing time will make it even more difficult to defend. The main counter to that would be if Cody Schrader and the ground game can get going. That would swing TOP in Mizzou’s favor and make life easy for Brady Cook on offense. Cook will have a solid game and keep things close, but Wake Forest will win 27-24.
The MVP for Mizzou will be Luther Burden III. I’m thinking two touchdowns and 80-90 total yards as he segues into his sophomore season.
Josh Matejka: It’s a bummer that Mizzou will be missing some of its best pass rushers against Wake, but the rest of the defense is strong enough to cover for them, especially with the starting secondary remaining pretty
Levi Hutmacher: I got Mizzou winning this one 34 - 21. That’s right. The offense will be LIT.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.