Armed Forces Bowl Preview: Army vs. Missouri

Armed Forces Bowl
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The Armed Forces Bowl pits the Army Black Knights and the Missouri Tigers. The Black Knights are looking for their first bowl victory since 2018, and the Tigers are stuck in a drought since 2014. Army lost the Liberty Bowl last season in a heartbreaker to West Virginia. The independent Black Knights are in familiar territory, having won the Armed Forces Bowl three times already, but Missouri is yet to appear in the contest. Army enters at 8-4 while Missouri scraped their way to bowl eligibility with a 6-6 record in the competitive SEC. 

Armed Forces Bowl Preview: When Army Has The Ball

The name of the game for Army is the triple option. Even in 2021, as they’ve passed far more frequently, it’s still all about success on the ground for the Black Knights. They have ten players with at least 100 rushing yards on the year; five have 300+. Tyrell Robinson leads the group with 603 rushing yards and 298 receiving yards, averaging 11.7 yards per touch. Jakobi Buchanan is the goal-line threat with eleven rushing touchdowns on the season. Quarterbacks Christian Anderson and Tyhier Tyler form an interesting duo; both are solid rushers but Anderson does the majority of the passing. They’ve combined for 1,070 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground. Anderson wasn’t efficient, completing just 47% of his passes, but he avoided mistakes, tossing five touchdowns and no interceptions. 

Defensively, for Missouri, it’s been a struggle. They rank 116th in points allowed per game at 34.7. Stopping the run has been a particular struggle, as the Tigers surrendered 229 yards on the ground per contest in 2021. Isaiah McGuire is their top playmaker, with six sacks as a defensive end. Trajan Jeffcoat is a force at defensive tackle. And the Tigers cause turnovers, causing their opponents to cough the ball up 1.25 games per game. However, Missouri gave up at least 23 points in every game; they were victimized for 34+ on six occasions. Against an Army team that will control the clock, this team needs to get the Black Knights behind the chains. If so, an opportunistic secondary, led by safety Jaylon Carlies (4 INTs), can try to poach some turnovers against a suspect passing attack. 

Armed Forces Bowl Preview: When Missouri Has The Ball

The Missouri offense can be summed up in two words: Tyler Badie. The jack-of-all-trades racked up 1,942 yards of offense in 2021. He averages a bit under 27 touches per game, six yards per rush, and he’s found the endzone 18 times. The passing game has been wildly inconsistent. Quarterback Connor Bazelak shows flashes, but he has 16 touchdowns to 11 interceptions on the season. Completing 65% of his passes, Bazelak targets Badie, Chritauskie Dove and Keke Chism frequently. Javian Hester is a popular red zone target with four touchdown receptions. However, if Badie isn’t churning out yards, then the Tigers struggle to move the ball. 

Army has largely been a defensive force this season. Two teams obliterated the Black Knights to the tune of 35 points (Western Kentucky) and 70 (Wake Forest). Beyond that, opponents struggle to find the end zone. Since the Wake Forest debacle, Army has not surrendered more than 17 points. They’ve given up more than 20 on just three occasions. Strong-side linebacker Andre Carter is the linchpin with 15 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. Carter and Arik Smith will likely be tasked with tracking Badie and trying to limit Missouri’s most explosive option. If Missouri leans on the passing attack, Army has struggled in that area. That being said, it’s not Missouri’s strength, so the Armed Forces Bowl comes down to Army’s strong run defense against one of the most electrifying backs in the country. 

Keys To Victory

Army: Stopping Tyler Badie

Frankly, Army shouldn’t struggle to score. Missouri’s defense has struggled, and it’s been particularly bad against the run. Army has the ability to score points and control the clock. However, Missouri is most dangerous when Tyler Badie is at his best. And if the Black Knights can’t stop Badie, they could get into a shootout. It’s not the style of game Army is built to win, and it’s something they must avoid. 

Missouri: Limit Army’s playbook

Army can give the ball to about 8-10 players and find success. However, with some built for short-yardage situations and an inefficient passing game, Army can find themselves limited quickly. If Missouri can make enough strong first and second down stops, they can force Army into passing situations. An inefficient Army aerial attack does not thrive here despite its 2021 improvements. It’s easily the Tigers’ best chance at keeping the Black Knights under 30 points. If Army can utilize the entirety of their running back depth and keep their playbook open, Missouri is in for a long game.