Memphis Tigers at Navy Midshipmen, Saturday Oct. 22, 3:30 p.m. ET
I've been doing three of these game previews a week for a lot of years now. In that time I may have done Navy once or twice - perhaps against Notre Dame or Army, though I don't specifically remember. I have absolutely never done a regular-season Memphis game, and I didn't expect that my first would be in the post Paxton Lynch era. Here we are, though - this is one of the three most interesting games on the calendar this week. Western Michigan against Eastern Michigan is also one of the three best games of the week, so this is not your normal week of football action.
Memphis at Navy Betting Storylines
Navy didn't wind up playing last week, though they were scheduled to. The after-effects of the hurricane, and flooding caused by it, forced their contest at East Carolina to be postponed. That game wasn't hugely relevant or exciting - it was going to be a win for Navy. It's the game before that that got the attention of everyone who follows college football. After beating Oklahoma in their opener, it seemed like Houston was in cruise control, just waiting for that game against Louisville. Win that and they could be a playoff team. But they had to win all the other games first. In the march to Louisville they made the mistake of overlooking Navy. The two teams were tied at 20 at the half, but Navy never trailed after that and fought to a 46-40 win that actually wasn't as close as it seemed - Houston scored a final touchdown in the last two minutes to tighten things up. Navy dominated the time of possessions and, in their slow and methodical fashion, they got the job done. Houston had 28 first downs to 20 by Navy, but Navy obviously used theirs better and they also forced three turnovers. It was a wildly impressive effort for Navy, and their reward was a spot in the AP poll. Now they get to defend that position for the first time against a pretty solid Memphis team.
Trivia interlude - the 46 points was the most that Navy has ever scored against a ranked opponent. The previous record? 45 against then red-hot Memphis last year.
The Tigers actually have the better record here - 5-1 compared to Navy's 4-1 mark. The issue, though, is that they have played only one decent team - Ole Miss, which was ranked No. 16 at the time - and they were beaten up 48-28. The teams they have beaten are most awful - they crushed Kansas and humiliated Bowling Green, for example, but those are barely functioning teams. The Tigers scored 120 points in those two games and allowed just 10. Needless to say, those results have skewed the stats for the squad dramatically. QB Riley Ferguson is a perfect example. His numbers are quite solid on the surface - 1,596 passing yards, 12 touchdowns, six picks, and 8.1 yards per attempt. Nothing wrong with that. In the Kansas and Bowling Green games, though, he scored eight touchdowns, didn't throw a pick, and amassed 10.7 yards per attempt. Impressive. It means, though, that against the other four opponents - Ole Miss, and the much less impressive Southeast Missouri State, Temple and Tulane - he has four touchdowns and six interceptions with 7.1 yards per attempt. That's dramatically less impressive, and it makes it tougher to love this team in this spot. Navy may not be the best team in the country by any means, but they are in a totally different stratosphere than Kansas and Bowling Green.
Memphis at Navy Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Memphis favored by 2.5, and that quickly climbed to the key number of three. The action has been balanced between the two teams fairly evenly early on, so we aren't likely to see hugely dramatic movement going forward.
The Tigers are 0-4 ATS in their last four October games and 1-4 ATS in their last five against teams with a winning record. Navy is 6-1-1 ATS in their last eight conference games and 4-1-1 ATS in their last six overall games.
Memphis at Navy Predictions and Picks
I'm surprised that Navy is an underdog here. I get some of the reasons, but I'm not buying it. The Tigers have not fared well against their best opponents, and they have not seen a methodical, grinding team like Navy is. The Midshipmen are well rested, and they obviously aren't intimidated by important games. They also know that a win here goes a long way towards locking down the division and a spot in the conference championship game. I like Navy - a whole lot - in this spot.
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