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Army vs. Missouri Odds & Picks: A Side to Bet in Armed Forces Bowl

Army vs. Missouri Odds & Picks: A Side to Bet in Armed Forces Bowl article feature image

Rick Ulreich and Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured, from left: Missouri Tigers running back Tyler Badie (1) and Army Black Knights defensive back Cedrick Cunningham (22).

Army vs. Missouri Odds

Wednesday, Dec. 22
8 p.m. ET
Army Odds
-110o / -110u
Missouri Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Armed Forces Bowl
Wednesday, Dec. 22 · Fort Worth, TX

Army and Missouri will meet on Wednesday night in Fort Worth, Texas, for the Armed Forces Bowl. The Tigers come in with a 6-6 record, while Army finished the season at 8-4 after suffering a heartbreaking loss at the hands of rival Navy in its season finale.

From a motivational perspective, you can bank on the Black Knights showing up. Death, taxes and service academies showing up for bowls. Since 1980, service academies (Army, Navy, Air Force) have gone a ridiculous 37-14 ATS (72.5%) in bowl games, including a 24-4 ATS (85.7%) mark for those that had at least a 65% winning percentage — which Army does.

On the other side, I’m not sure how much Missouri really cares about this game. Yes, a win would give the Tigers a winning record, but they had bigger aspirations for this year. They also dropped their regular-season finale against Arkansas, so it’s not like they ended on a high note to reach bowl eligibility.

Army did lose its bowl game last year against West Virginia but easily covered in a 24-21 defeat. Prior to that game, the Black Knights had won four straight, including three at this very bowl. Meanwhile, Missouri had its bowl canceled last season and lost its past two bowl appearances in 2017 and 2018.

This will also be the first bowl game for Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz, who left for the job in Columbia prior to Appalachian State’s bowl back in 2019.

Army head coach Jeff Monken certainly has the experience edge, having coached in four previous bowl games (3-1). A few ATS trends support experienced coaches against first-time bowl coaches, which makes logical sense. Over time, coaches learn how to best prepare their teams and avoid distractions during such long layoffs.

So, how do these teams match up on the field, and where does the potential betting value lie? Let’s take a closer look.

Army Black Knights

Even the most casual college football fans know that Army runs the triple-option on offense.

The Black Knights run it on 90% of standard downs and want to control the clock with methodical time-consuming drives. They also aren’t afraid to go for it on fourth-and-short from anywhere on the field.

Army also mixed in some more passes this year and actually finished No. 1 in the country in explosive pass percentage — although that stat is a bit misleading since they throw so infrequently. However, quarterback Christian Anderson does have the ability to hit explosive plays down the field when the defense least expects it.

On defense, Army was rock solid against the run, finishing in the top 20 nationally in Rush Success Rate and yards per rush.

The primary weakness of the defense lies in the secondary.  Army finished outside the top 80 in EPA per Pass and 110th defending pass explosiveness. Look no further than the game against Wake Forest earlier this season. Quarterback Sam Hartman carved up the Army defensive backfield, finishing 23-of-29 for 458 yards and five touchdowns — four of which went for at least 40 yards.

Army did have a fairly easy schedule en route to an 8-4 record. It certainly benefited from facing three cupcakes in UConn, UMass and Bucknell.

However, it did finish the season with an impressive 5-3 record against bowl-eligible teams:

  • 43-10 at Georgia State
  • 38-35 vs. Western Kentucky
  • 23-10 vs. Miami (Ohio)
  • 21-14 over Air Force (neutral)
  • 31-16 at Liberty

Its three losses to bowl-eligible teams came at Wisconsin (20-14), vs. Wake Forest (70-56) and at Ball State (28-16).

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Missouri Tigers

When you talk about Missouri football in 2011, you have to start with running back Tyler Badie.

The workhorse back is one of four in the country with over 1,600 rushing yards on the season. He averaged 6.0 yards per carry and added 14 touchdowns. But the Tigers won’t have Badie in their back pocket against Army, as the coaching staff decided to keep him out of action.

Adjusting for opponent, the Missouri offense graded out right around average on a national scale in large part due to Badie. The offense went as he went since the passing game really struggled all season long.

After showing plenty of promise as a freshman in 2020, quarterback Connor Bazelak regressed this year. As a result, the Tigers finished outside the top 100 in Passing Downs Success Rate and overall pass explosiveness.

Injuries may have contributed to some of his struggles in addition to a wide receiver group that really lacks SEC-caliber playmakers. Regardless of the reasons why, Drinkwitz said he would hold an open competition at quarterback leading up to the bowl.

The latest reports indicate redshirt freshman Brady Cook will get the nod under center for his first career start. He did play against Georgia in a game that Tyler Macon got the start with Bazelak injured.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see all three at some point, depending on the effectiveness of Cook. For reference, the pro-style frosh was a three-star recruit coming out of high school in St. Louis.

Missouri will also be without a few other players on Wednesday. See below for the updated names and respective snap counts during the 2021 regular season:

  • SS Martez Manuel (800)
  • DT Akial Byers (435)
  • TE Niko Hea (365)
  • OL Zeke Powell (31)
  • OL Bobby Lawrence (12)

The two most impactful losses are Manuel — who led the defense in snaps this year — and Byers, a critical piece of the Missouri run defense.

Manuel will also be missed in this specific matchup, considering he plays in the box over half of the time. That pair had huge games defending the run against South Carolina and Florida when the Missouri run defense actually looked competent for a small stretch during the season.

Overall, it’s a very poor run defense that ranked 116th in Standard Down Line Yards and 97th in Opportunity Rate. That’s not an ideal combination when facing a triple-option offense.

The Missouri defense did excel in generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks (18th in Sack Rate), but that doesn’t help much against Army.

In regards to its schedule, Missouri did have a much tougher slate compared to Army. The Tigers finished with a 4-6 record against their 10 opponents that made a bowl game, with those wins coming over Central Michigan, North Texas, South Carolina and Florida.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention kicker Harrison Mevis, who for my money was the best kicker in college football this season. Mevis finished the season 40-for-40 on extra points and 20-for-22 on field goals, including an uber-impressive 11-for-13 from beyond 40 yards — and a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond 50.

Missouri will certainly hold an advantage on special teams, primarily because of Mevis.

Army vs. Missouri Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Army and Missouri match up statistically:

Army Offense vs. Missouri Defense
Rush Success2116
Line Yards4291
Pass Success11094
Pass Blocking**12853
Big Play116100
Finishing Drives2121
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Missouri Offense vs. Army Defense
Rush Success7827
Line Yards8148
Pass Success6153
Pass Blocking**1760
Big Play82109
Finishing Drives6788
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling8184
Middle 82965
SP+ Special Teams9613
Plays per Minute13058
Rush Rate87.4% (3)50.3% (95)

Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.

Army vs. Missouri Betting Pick

First off, I’m more confident in the fact that Army shows up fully motivated, which is half the battle when handicapping bowls. If Missouri doesn’t care, it could be a long day, as the last thing an unmotivated team wants to do is defend the triple option.

However, even if Missouri cares about this game, it’s still a great matchup for Army.

The Black Knights should have no issues moving up and down the field on the ground against a Missouri run defense that ranks outside the top 100 in most advanced metrics. And once it gets down into scoring position, expect Army to cap off drives with touchdowns. The Black Knights rank second in the nation in Finishing Drives, while Missouri’s defense ranks 122nd in that same category.

On the other side of the ball, Missouri just doesn’t have the aerial attack to fully take advantage of some of Army’s weaknesses in its secondary. The Black Knights’ stout run defense should be up to the task of containing a ground game that doesn’t feature Badie.

In regards to the total, I regret not firing on the under 60, but I still lean under at the current number with two teams that rank outside the top 90 in adjusted pace.

The one wild card is the Missouri play-calling. With a new quarterback presumably under center, will it want to see what he has by airing it out or lean on the run game?

Ultimately, I’m staying away from the total and just sticking with my original Army -3 position, which I wouldn’t play at -6 or above.

Pick: Army -4 (Play to -5.5)

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