The Armed Forces Bowl has been a “bowl for the brave,” featuring the best military academy school available in the Bowl season (normally). This is the 19th consecutive season that the bowl game has been played, always performed in Fort Worth, Texas. This year, the patriotic themed event will host the independent Army Black Knights and the Missouri Tigers from the SEC.

Army (8-4, 0-1 vs AP Top 25 teams) comes off a fresh upset loss to Navy, 17-13, in the annual regular season-ending game. Army defeated some good teams over the course of the season, taking down the Conference USA runner-up Western Kentucky (38-35), Air Force (21-14), and Liberty (31-16). They were very competitive with Wisconsin (loss 20-14) and lost a shootout to Wake Forest (70-56).

Missouri (6-6, 3-5 vs SEC) was mostly competitive in the SEC East slate, but struggled with the borderline top 25 teams that they faced. The Tigers were blown out by the Tennessee Volunteers, 62-24, and couldn’t take care of business against Kentucky (35-28) and Boston College in overtime (41-34). However, Missouri managed to upset Florida, and took care of business agains Vanderbilt and South Carolina to secure their spot in the bowl mania.

Armed Forces Bowl – The Marquee Attraction: RB Tyler Badie, Missouri

Tyler Badie (5’8″ 194 lbs) brings quite the skillset to an NFL team. He’s an extremely capable runner both between the tackles and outside on the perimeter, and is a very effective receiver – both out of the backfield and out wide as a receiver. Despite his smaller stature, Badie runs tough and didn’t fumble once during the 2021 campaign.

Badie didn’t play much pass protection at all throughout his career, mostly because of his size. His physical style will set some setbacks against him because of his lack of size, NFL clubs will be hesitant to add him because of the injury liability that creates. Badie reminds me a lot of Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott and brings that same type of skillset to the field.

Army players to watch

  • S Cedrick Cunningham
  • P Zach Harding (NFLPA Collegiate Bowl)

Army safety Cedrick Cunningham (6’0″ 215 lbs) is a good tackler with good upper body strength to help him control the tackle effectively. The issue is that he’s not particularly fast or quick and doesn’t look like he can hold up at the next level. Cunningham can certainly make a statement against Missouri with Tyler Badie working out of the backfield every play.

The punter, Zach Harding (6’5″ 220 lbs), caught everyone’s attention in America’s game with a perfectly placed punt that backed the Midshipmen back at their own one yard line. He’s got a good leg but consistency is the real question with him. Harding is on his way to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl this January.

Missouri offensive players to watch

  • QB Connor Bazelak
  • C Michael Maietti

Connor Bazelak (6’3″ 212 lbs) most likely doesn’t enter the 2022 NFL Draft, but he is certainly a quarterback to keep an eye on for the sake of his development. Bazelak has a great arm and can push the ball downfield well, but was very inconsistent with his accuracy. That being said, his upside is there if he can pull some of his mechanics together. He’s a fun improviser and a very capable runner.

Michael Maietti (6’1″ 290 lbs) has received all sorts of all-conference honors in the SEC this season and is one of the more underrated linemen in this upcoming NFL Draft cycle. Quick and agile, Maietti has brought on late size concerns for the center position. He doesn’t play as small as he is – he’s very strong and uses his quickness and lack of height to be the lower man. He’s a fun center and sets up lanes extremely well.

Missouri defensive players to watch

Kobie Whiteside (6’1″ 298 lbs) has the quickness and is built in the mold of Aaron Donald. A good first step and solid handwork helps Whiteside get into the backfield quickly and effectively. I found Whiteside prior to the 2020 season and I’ve been a fan ever since. The question is consistency, as he hasn’t produced like he did in 2019 next to Jordan Elliott.

Blake Alldredge (6’2″ 220 lbs) is a thrilling downhill tackler. Tough and physical, he commands the box with his presence and smart, instinctive defense against the run. The issue is that he is a bit of a liability in pass coverage, could use another 10 pounds of weight on his frame, and he struggles to work through traffic efficiently while pursuing the play.

Akayleb Evans (6’2″ 198 lbs), the transfer from Tulsa, played well overall in his first year in the SEC. A very passive tackler, Evans is a cover cornerback. He has excellent athleticism and his length is valuable at the cornerback position in the NFL. Evans is a bit more of a man coverage cornerback and shouldn’t be ready to start for his first couple of years.

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By John Vogel

NFL Draft Analyst. Dad.

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