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What a Bowl Win over Wake Forest Would Mean for Mizzou

While bowl games have lost their luster in some ways due to opt outs and the transfer portal, they’re still important. Here’s what a bowl win would mean for Mizzou this year.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV. 25 Arkansas at Missouri

It’s Gasparilla Bowl week for the Missouri Tigers against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons down in Tampa, Florida – who are bowl eligible for the third consecutive season under head coach Eli Drinkwitz.

And if wasn’t for the bowl ban in 2019 and COVID cancellation in 2020, Missouri would be playing in their sixth consecutive bowl game. Bowl eligibility can and should be the minimal expectation for Mizzou. For the most part – the Tigers have been consistent in making that happen. Winning their bowl games? Well, that’s another story.

Yeah, we know the deal about bowl games nowadays. Due to opt outs and the transfer portal, bowl games that aren’t the College Football Playoff or New Year’s Six just aren’t as important anymore. Sometimes, they’re labeled as “glorified exhibitions.” Missouri kind of made that case last season when Drinkwitz sat Tyler Badie against Army in the Armed Forces Bowl.

This season’s bowl game for Mizzou just feels a little different, though — doesn’t it?

While it’s not a must win by any means — it sure would be nice to end the season on a good note. Here’s what a bowl win would mean for the Tigers.

Legitimate Progress

Last season, Missouri finished 6-7 and the Tigers only had one win against a Power Five opponent with a winning record (South Carolina at 7-6). They also weren’t even competitive in the majority of their losses.

Obviously, 7-6 would be better than 6-7 — but there’s a lot of reasons to show that legitimate progress would be made. Aside from road games against Big 12 Champions Kansas State and a Top 10 Tennesse squad, the rest of Missouri’s losses have been competitive and decided by one score.

Mizzou also has two legitimate wins on their schedule against a ranked South Carolina team and an Arkansas team who is better than their record shows. A third win over a solid 7-5 Wake Forest team would be a huge deal. That would be legitimate progress.

A Winning Season and Breaking the Bowl Drought

Missouri hasn’t had a winning season since going 8-5 in 2018 under Barry Odom — and even that felt like a big, missed opportunity for an even better season.

It’s also been a long time since Missouri has won a bowl game. You have to go back to the New Year’s Day 2015 Citrus Bowl game against Minnesota for the Tigers’ last bowl win. That’s three straight bowl losses during that span.

For non-blue blood programs that aren’t consistently competing for conference championships and National Championships — bowl wins and winning seasons are good measuring sticks for their success. A perfect example here is Wake Forest, who is 4-2 in their last six bowl games under Dave Clawson.

Missouri has a prime opportunity to do both here in which they haven’t had in quite some time.

Momentum into Next Season

Regardless of what happens in this bowl game, Eli Drinkwitz heads into a critical Year 4 in what could be a make-or-break type of season. The schedule sets itself up for success as the Tigers start next season with four straight games at home (including Memphis in St. Louis) and their SEC opener is against Vanderbilt.

With a win on Friday, not only would Missouri finish 7-6 — but the Tigers would be 5-2 in their last seven games after a tough 2-4 start. That would give you reason to believe that this thing is heading in the right direction.

No doubt, Missouri’s roster next season is going to look a lot different — but there is still a lot of some key pieces returning. A bowl win here would be valuable for their confidence and momentum going into next season. Ending this season on a high note could go a long way.

“I feel like for a program like Mizzou, the success in a bowl game still has some value to it,” - KTRS Sports Director Brendan Wiese discussing the importance with Dave Matter and Ben Frederickson on Mizzou Football’s Bowl Special Show.

No, it isn’t the College Football Playoff. It’s not a New Year’s Six Bowl. It isn’t even among the SEC Pool of Six – but a bowl win here could still carry a lot of weight for the Mizzou Football program.