Army Black Knights vs. Navy Midshipmen, Saturday December 12, 3 p.m. ET
The last weekend of the college football season certainly doesn't offer quantity - there is only one game - or quality - Army is sorely outmatched, as they typically are. What it lacks in competitiveness, though, this game more than makes up for in tradition and visual appeal. It's just fun to watch. Navy comes into the contest with a 13-game winning streak in the series, and it would be truly a shock if it weren't stretched to 14 here. These are two teams in very different places. Navy is ranked 22nd in the country and has nine wins. Army has a mirror image record - nine losses. So, can the Knights be competitive here as massive underdogs, or will Navy roll on?
Army vs. Navy Betting Storylines
Navy lost at Houston in their last game to cost themselves a berth in the AAC Championship Game last weekend. They also have a loss at Notre Dame. That means they dropped their two biggest games, and that leaves a win at Memphis as the closest thing to a signature win they have. Memphis is solid, though, and Navy won by 25, so it's not like they got where they are purely by beating up on weaklings. Throughout the season they have dominated their opponents in one big way - they are beasts on the grounds. With more than 330 rushing yards per game they have the second-best ground game in the whole country. They have eight different players who have averaged at least five yards per carry, including their leading runner, QB Keenan Reynolds, and running back Chris Swain. The two have combined for 1,940 yards and 29 scores. Army is middle of the pack nationally against the run, so it seems more than reasonable that Navy should be poised for another big day running. In fact, I am confident in predicting that they will run a whole lot. It's just as easy to predict how they will fare through the air - 125 programs passed more than Navy did this year, so Reynolds' throwing arm isn't likely to get too tired.
Army's offense looks quite similar to Navy's - they are eighth in the country on the ground with 254 yards per game and are a spot behind Navy in the passing rankings. There are going to be a whole lot of handoffs in this game. Army's problem, though, is that they aren't nearly as good at what they do as Navy is. Their two wins came over Eastern Michigan and Bucknell. Be honest - am I the only one that had no idea that frequent NCAA Tournament entrant Bucknell even played football? The rest of the time they lost - often by a wide margin - and it's not like they played the toughest schedule in the country, either. The Army is good at a lot of things, but playing football isn't, at least in this era, one of them. They are against a Navy defense that ranked in the top quarter of the country against the run - and that was against a generally stronger group of teams than they are going to be facing here. So, Navy is better than Army at running the ball, they face a defense that is less suited to slowing them down than Army does, and neither team is consistently capable of using the pass to change things up. It's not hard to draw up a scenario for how this one turns out, is it? The thing about run-heavy games is that they tend to be more predictable - fewer big plays and more methodical movement means that the better team tends to assert themselves over time, and luck is less of a factor. For Army that is a massive, likely fatal, issue.
Army vs. Navy Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Navy favored by 22 points, and it has remained stable at that level so far. About two-thirds of bets have been on Navy, so it is possible we could see small changes, but a radical swing is unlikely without a major development. The total sits at 51.5.
Army hasn't won in a long time, but they have covered three of the last four spreads in this rivalry and five of the last 10. The biggest spread in the last decade before this year was 19 points in 2006. Navy won that year but didn't cover. Army is 0-5-1 ATS in their last six games this year. Navy has gone over the total in their last four games this year. The last nine editions of this rivalry have all gone under the total.
NCAA Football Expert Picks Against the Spread: Army vs. Navy Betting Predictions
Navy is clearly the dramatically better team. At more than three touchdowns, though, this spread is just too big to take them. Both teams will run extensively, so the clock will evaporate. Navy has a bowl game to play in less than three weeks and a chance to wind up with 11 wins, so once the game is in hand it is more likely that they will keep people healthy than it is that they will go for the jugular of Army. I give Army virtually no chance of winning, but they could keep it close enough to get another cover.
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