Free College Football Picks: Army vs. Navy Odds and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 12/12/2013
The last game of the regular season in college football doesn’t top the charts in terms of significance or, most often, quality of play. When it comes to pageantry and tradition, though, it’s hard to beat the Army-Navy game. The game was first played in 1890, has been played continuously since 1930, and this year will be the 114th meeting. Navy has a 57-49-7 edge in the series, but they have gained their long-term advantage thanks to a current 11-game winning streak — the longest in the history of the series.
Navy is heading off to the Armed Forces Bowl to face Middle Tennessee on Dec. 30, so their season doesn’t end just yet. For the seniors at Army, though, this is the end of the line. That always has a particular significance for the players in this game because service looms instead of the pros.
Army vs. Navy Betting Storylines
Navy comes into the game at a solid 7-4, and they could have been even better. They lost in double overtime to Toledo and lost by only four at Notre Dame after leading until less than four minutes were left. Their defense is the definition of underwhelming, so it is their offense that has got them this far and which will likely lead them to victory in this game. Perhaps more than any other team in the country, Navy is the definition of unbalanced. They just cannot pass the ball — their 98.9 yards per game through the air ranks just 124th in the country. That’s out of 125 teams. On the ground, though, they amassed 322 yards per game — the third best in the country. The driving force behind it all is sophomore quarterback Keenan Reynolds. He is the team’s leading rusher, and he has scored 26 times on the ground. Add in the eight passing touchdowns, and he has accounted for nearly 63 percent of the team’s total offense. Needless to say, if Army doesn’t have a good plan for containing Reynolds they are going to be in a whole lot of trouble.
When I said that Navy is less offensively-balanced than any team in the country, I wasn’t quite being accurate. Army actually has them beat on both counts. Their pathetic 80.5 passing yards per game is dead last in the country, and with 325.9 rushing yards per game they were second only to Auburn in the country. Their stats were somewhat padded by a weak schedule, though in their toughest game against Stanford, which has the third-best run defense in the country, they still managed 284 yards. It’s not a pretty offense, but it is relentless, and they are committed to the run absolutely — as much out of need as anything. Leading rusher Terry Baggett rushed for 1,072 yards and eight touchdowns on just 130 carries — a very impressive 8.2 yards per game. To end Navy’s 11-year winning streak Army is going to have to ride Baggett hard all game long. They have a severe skill shortage, and they can’t afford to get into a shootout with Navy, so they will have to take risks, and they will likely get into four-down territory much earlier than is typical or ideal. If the team pulls off the upset and wins, Baggett will be the MVP, and the vote won’t be close.
Thanks to an odd quirk of the calendar, Navy could be at a mental disadvantage heading into this one. For the first time ever, the Academy’s final exams are taking place this week leading up to the Army-Navy game. Typically they happen the week after the game, but because the weekend of the game fell so late in the month this year, there was a conflict. That means that the practice schedule has been forced to change this week, and players are studying hard to live up to the very rigorous academic standards of the school. That means that Army will be more prepared and mentally sharper — or at least they have every opportunity to be. If they can take advantage of that and jump out strong early then they have a chance to make this game interesting.
Army vs. Navy College Football Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Navy favored by 10 points. More than 80 percent of bets have come in on the Midshipmen, so it is no surprise that the line has climbed and they are now favored by 13. It could easily go higher by game time. The total opened at 55 and is falling slightly, with as low as 53 now available.
Though Navy has won 11 straight, they are just 1-3 ATS in the last four meetings. Navy has gone 0-4 ATS in their last four December games. Navy has not played since Nov. 22. They are just 0-5 ATS in their last five games following a bye week. The Black Knights have gone “under” in each of their last eight December games. The last seven games in this series have gone under the total.
Free College Football Picks: Army vs. Navy Predictions
Navy is clearly the better team and is going to win this game. That being said, an argument can be made that Army could offer some value. Navy could be both rusty and tired, and that could affect them — especially early. Army is going to be able to move the ball on the ground, so Navy isn’t going to overwhelm in the possession battle. The weather forecast is lousy, with plenty of snow and cold weather expected. That could have a big impact on the ability of both teams to move at their best, and it could keep things lower scoring and closer. I like the under and would lean towards playing Army as well — especially if the line moves to or through the key number of 14.
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