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It’s officially bowl season for the SEC, with Missouri taking the field tonight against Army in the Armed Forces Bowl. The Tigers will enter the game without their starting running back and with a new starting quarterback, which should add to the intrigue of this game, especially for Missouri fans.
It was announced that starting running back Tyler Badie would not play in the bowl game, with Eli Drinkwitz saying it was a staff decision. A few minutes after the announcement from Drinkwitz, Badie released a statement on social media announcing he’d be declaring for the 2022 NFL Draft. This was all done to protect Badie from injury, which is why the coaching staff made the decision to protect his professional future.
The Tigers are also making a switch at quarterback, with Drinkwitz naming Brady Cook the starter. During the regular season, the job was held by Connor Bazelak, who the coaches had the most faith in, especially with his throwing ability. But, over the course of the back half of the season, Brady Cook was given the opportunity to play for the job. During practice leading up to tonight’s bowl game, Cook won the starting position, according to Drinkwitz.
Over the course of the final four games of the regular season, Bazelak threw six interceptions and only four touchdowns. It was the Arkansas game that really opened up the quarterback spot, as Bazelak only completed 10 passes for 65 yards and 1 interception, which led to him being replaced by Brady Cook. There is a strong chance that Bazelak doesn’t play tonight, which would leave the Tigers without a captain from the 2021 season.
The Tigers will already be without senior defensive back Akayleb Evans, who opted out of the game. But the injury news took a bad turn on Tuesday afternoon, when Missouri released its official depth chart for the game. Missouri will be without offensive linemen Bobby Lawrence and Zeke Powell, along with tight end Niko Hea and safety Martez Manuel. Also, defensive lineman Akial Byers was listed as out, which leaves the Tigers without five starters for tonight’s game with Army.
The opening line for this game had Missouri favored by 2.5 points, but according to FanDuel, Army is now favored by 6.5 points. That is a really dramatic turn, which is due to how many players the Tigers will be missing.
As for the new starting quarterback, Brady Cook appeared in four games this season, completing 18-23 passes for 103 yards and 1 touchdown. Yes, those aren’t numbers that jump out to you, but this staff is looking for a spark tonight and they feel Cook could be the answer, especially with his ability to scramble.
On the opposite side of the line, if the Missouri defense can’t figure out a way to stop the Army rushing attack, it will be a very long night. This Black Knights are averaging 289 yards per game on the ground and 16 first downs per game, rushing. You won’t see much passing tonight from Army, but their ability to hit the play-action pass will be on display at times. Simply put, Missouri must take advantage of its possessions and not let Army go on eight minute drives, which we witnessed recently against Navy.
Overall, this game should be interesting to watch, just for the shear fact that we don’t know what to expect from the Tigers offense, but we do know Army will try to run the football down their throats. How Eli Drinkwitz puts together enough offensive explosion tonight will be key, as they will need to play keep away from the Black Knights.
Enjoy the first SEC bowl game of the season.