NCAAF
December 22, 2021

Missouri Tigers vs Army Black Knights: Armed Forces Bowl Best Bets

The Armed Forces Bowl is the only bowl game of the day, and the value on the board for this game is just simply tremendous. 

Army is coming off a loss to Navy and will look to secure their ninth win of the season. On the other side, Missouri finished the regular season 6-6, but the Tigers will not be at full strength in this game due to injuries and opt-outs. 

The service academies have been a wagon ATS in bowl games. According to the Action Network, the service academies are 37-14 ATS in bowl games since 1980. That is an insane clip, and I think it proves that the triple-option will never die. Anyway, let's get into this matchup. 

How do these teams match up, and who has the edge? Well, let's find out. 

Why Missouri Can Cover:

Betting Trends:

  • 3-12 ATS in last 15 games
  • 3-9 ATS this season
  • The total has gone OVER in 10 of the last 15 games
  • The total has gone UNDER in four out of the last five when Missouri is playing as an underdog

Outside of running back Tyler Badie, Missouri is a very average football team, which is why they only won six games. On the season, Badie rushed for 1604 yards and averaged 6.0 yards per carry. He is one of four running backs in the country with over 1,600 rushing yards this season (Lew Nichols, Kenneth Walker III, Tyler Allgeier). 

Even with his dominance this season, Missouri is only 50th in rushing yards per game, and 35th in yards per rush. As a whole, the offense scored 27.0 points per game, and they are inside the top 75 in yards, points per play, and yards per play. Being in the top 75 isn't great, but it will do. However, Badie will sit out this game as he will enter the draft, so Missouri is going to need a big game from Michael Cox, who only has 18 carries on the season. 

Quarterback Connor Bazelak showed little promise this season, as he only finished with 16 touchdowns in 11 games this season. However, he has been replaced by Brady Cook, who has only attempted 31 passes in his career. 

Not only will the Tigers be without their starting running back, but the quarterback with the most experience has been benched. The only way this team covers at this rate is if the difference in strength of schedule actually means something. Army had the 72nd-toughest schedule in the country, and Missouri had games against Georgia, Texas A&M, Arkansas, and Kentucky this year.

Technically, Missouri's SOS ranked 61st in the country, but they played a lot more quality teams than Army did this season. 

Why Army Can Cover:

Betting Trends:

  • 6-6 ATS this season
  • The total has gone UNDER in seven of their last nine games
  • 15-2 SU in their last 17 when playing as a favorite
  • 3-1 ATS in their last four games

If you can believe it, Army likes to run the football. The Black Knights are second in rushes per game and rushing yards per game this season. Another shocking thing about this Army offense is that they only throw the ball 8.8 times per game. 

What is actually shocking, however, is that Army is first in the country in yards per pass (11.1). I guess whenever Army passes the ball, it is such a shock, that they rip off first downs every time they pass. Luckily for Army, the Missouri defense is horrendous against the run and slightly above average against the pass. The Tigers' defense is ranked 115th in rushing yards per play (5.3), 122nd in rushes per game (42.4), and 120th in rushing yards per game (223.4).

Army has a wide variety of weapons, as most triple-option offenses do. The most lethal is Tyrell Robinson, who led the team in rushing yards (603) and yards per rush (9.1). Collectively, Army rushed for 3437 yards and 44 touchdowns this season. Obviously, Missouri will stack the box, and if Army beats you through the air, so be it. 

Defensively, Army is strong against the run, and weak against the pass. So basically, they are the opposite of Missouri's defense. Army only allowed 23.5 points and 334 total yards per game this season, and with Badie sitting out for the Tigers, and the fact that Missouri has been awful ATS lately, Army is in a prime position to blow out an SEC team. It is not often that Army gets to say that. 

Armed Forces Best Bet: 

*Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook

Missouri was not a very sound offense at all this season, and their only player that is worth anything opted out. Plus, you have to factor in that Army is motivated to end the season with a win after suffering an upset against Navy. You can tell when the clock hit triple zeros in that game, that Army was pissed and ready to roll whichever team played them in the bowl game. 

Army should have no problems moving the ball down the field against a poor defensive front-seven. Missouri will also be without safety Martez Manuel and defensive tackle, Akial Byers. I hate to pile on Missouri here, but the path to victory in this game is very narrow. 

At the end of the day, Army is just a better football team, and their strengths heavily play well against Missouri's weaknesses. The spread opened at -4 for Army but has since jumped up to 6.5-points. I would still bet that number, and I probably will, but the official play has to be the under. 

With a quarterback and running back that have had practically zero impact on the team this season, Missouri better hope that Cook is the real deal. That worries me a bit because Missouri could just say "screw it, let's air this one out" but I will take my chances that Missouri just does not have the horses on either side of the ball to keep up with, or even slow down Army. 

Pick: Under 54.5 (-115) & Army -6.5 (-118)

Photo: Getty Images