Army Black Knights vs. Navy Midshipmen, Saturday Dec. 10, 3 p.m. ET
It's of a bit of a nostalgic time from where I sit - this is the 43rd and final college football game preview of the regular season. I love bowls as much as the next guy - and more than most - but nothing is better than the volume and chaos of the regular season in college football. Instead of wallowing in sadness, though, or focusing on what has been a pretty solid year (24-18 ATS to date), let's attack this game with intensity and enthusiasm. That's what it deserves - it's not every day that a rivalry is being played out for the 117th time (Navy has a 60-49-7 overall record but has won the last 14 straight).
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Army vs. Navy Betting Storylines
Navy follows a unique path to this game - they have not yet finished their regular season and yet they have already played in their conference title game. No other team in the country can say the same thing. Unfortunately, Navy lost that championship game to Temple - and they lost it badly. Not only that, but they also lost their second-string quarterback, Will Worth, early in that game. Worth will be out for this game as well. The original starter is out, too, so they are down to third-stringer Zach Abey under center. The Temple game would suggest that that isn't a particularly good thing. Navy got behind in that game, so they were forced to pass more than they normally or ideally would. It didn't go well - Abey threw two easy interceptions and generally didn't help his team at all. Losing Worth is a huge blow to the Midshipmen.
It's been a rough stretch of time for Army, but they have turned a corner in the third year under head coach Jeff Monken. They were just 2-10 last year but are already bowl eligible for the first time since 2010 - they are playing North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. While that is far from the best bowl game on the schedule, it's still a bowl, and they have already won six games to earn their place in it. Army hasn't played a particularly tough schedule, but there is one interesting twist - their first game of the season was a win over the same Temple team that just blew out the Midshipmen last week. Head-to-head comparisons are not entirely flattering, though - the week after Navy beat Notre Dame the Irish beat Army by 38.
Army has two strengths of note here. They are sound defensively - their 19.1 points allowed per game ranks 14th in the country. Defenses are often challenged by the quirky Navy option attack, but Army has the major advantage that their defense faces a very similar offense in practice. They are also a strong running team, led by QB Ahmad Bradshaw and running back Andy Davidson, who have 15 touchdowns and just short of 1,500 yards combined on the ground. Navy is only an average defensive team against the run, having allowed more than 176 yards per game. That matchup - Army on the ground attacking Navy - is what is going to define this game. Really, the running game will define the game both ways - Navy will need to run almost exclusively with Abey at QB, so if they can't find room against the Army defense they are going to really struggle to find points.
Army vs. Navy Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Navy favored by as much as 11 points, but that has fallen to where it is now - Navy is widely favored by the key number of seven, with 6.5 even available in spots. Two-thirds of bets have been on Navy, so the line movement suggests a combination of sharp money hitting Army and reaction to the confirmation that Worth will not be available. The total opened at 50.5 and has been moving solidly downwards, sitting at 48 now.
The Midshipmen are 17-8-1 ATS in their last 26 games overall, including 7-4 ATS this season. They also bounce back strong - they are 4-0 ATS in their last four games following an ATS loss. Army is coming off a bye week, and that isn't a good thing for them here - they are a dismal 7-22 ATS in their last 29 following a bye. Ten of the last 11 editions of this rivalry have gone "under" the total, and the underdog (Army in each case) is 4-1 ATS in the last five.
Army vs. Navy Predictions and Picks
The quarterback situation for Navy is a concern, and I didn't like their last game at all. If we can get them here at a touchdown or less, though, we have to take them. Army has a solid defense and they can run, but they have to take a massive step up in class against Navy here, and even with Navy hampered by injury I'm not sure that they are up to it. Navy's winning streak in this challenge is no fluke, and they are going to come out on top.
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