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Navy vs. Air Force

Betting Line: Air Force -10 o/u 47

10/2/10

The battle for the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy should be a good one this year with all three Service Academies looking like competitors three games into the 2010 season. Navy has been the king in recent years, winning the Trophy 7 straight years including 7 straight wins over Army and 8 straight over Air Force. But if we use the betting line as an indication, that streak ends this week as the Air Force is a whopping 10 point favorite to beat Navy Saturday.

Certainly, Air Force is the more battle tested of the two. After all, they did play Oklahoma and gave the Sooners a scare. They also crushed BYU and then beat Wyoming last week, although, just squeaking by Wyoming makes you wonder if the Falcons are really that good. In fact, you can even question how good BYU and Oklahoma are at this point after recent performances. BYU has been having major problems while the Sooners seem to be just squeaking by.

But at least Air Force as some solid competition to judge by. How are we supposed to handicap Navy? They beat Georgia Southern and La Tech and lost to Maryland in a close one, 17-14. Playing the much tougher schedule heading into this one definitely helps Air Force here.

When we handicap college football, one of the factors we always consider is the history between two programs. Taking a look into the past can tell you quite a bit about two football teams. We talk about it all the time. Certain schools attract a certain level of talent, and very little has changed in that regard over the years. This applies to the Service Academies as well. It's very rare to take a look at two teams and see that their history is filled with 3 point games and yet one team improves so drastically in one year that they blow the other off the field. Oh, it can happen, and it does. But when we wager on sports, we're playing long term percentages.

We bring this up because it applies to this game. Air Force and Navy have played some competitive football games over the last decade. Navy has won 8 straight, but of the last 10 games these two have played, 7 were decided by less than a touchdown with 4 of those being decided by 3 points. Only one game of the last 120 got out of hand and that was a 48-7 win by Air Force back in 2002. This is just one measuring stick you can use to determine the difference in talent level from year to year between two programs. In this case, the margin is thin. 

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You can probably tell by this point which way we are leaning here. But it's not just the series history that has us leaning that way. Navy has had their share of success against big named teams as well. Last year they almost knocked off Ohio State, they beat Notre Dame on the road and they whacked Missouri in a Bowl game. They have won 8, 9 and 10 games over the last few seasons and have played some very good teams along the way. The three we mentioned above, plus Pitt, Utah, Boston College, Connecticut and they either beat, or played these teams within a field goal.

As you can see, the talent is their at Navy to compete against some good football teams. The Air Force run defense sputtered last week against Wyoming who put up 73 yards rushing in three games before getting 174 against Air Force. Not a good sign when playing a running team like Navy. The Air Force special teams is also a big question mark. There's no kicking game to speak of and they have give up some long returns as well.

Perhaps Air Force was looking ahead and took Wyoming lightly. Air Force looks solid this season. We watched them against BYU and Oklahoma, and we really haven't seen Navy at all this year. But the history of these two programs tells us we're more likely to see a good close game than a blow out. The style of play, with both teams pounding the ball, also is in our favor as it shortens the game and keeps the clock moving.

Lastly, remember this. Many teams have difficulty when facing an option style offense. That's because they may only see it once a year and they only have a week to prepare for it. Not the case here. Both of these teams run the option, and see it every week of the season in practice.

This looks to be the best chance Air Force has had in years to break their losing streak to Navy. No question they have a good team this year and they'll have the home field advantage with the altitude and crowd in their favor. We just can't pass up +10 points in a close series like this one. Navy +10

 

 

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