When we reach the Army/Navy Game each year, it’s both sad, and exciting at the same time. Sad, because this Game marks then end of another football season. Exciting, because this Game marks the beginning of the Bowl season, and all that goes along with that, such as the holidays, the New Year, and so on, soon to be followed by the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl.
It’s also a tricky Game to handicap each year. It’s one of those Games where you can, for the most part, toss the records out the window as it’s a Game where emotion goes a long way and it’s a Game where, regardless of your won loss record, it can make your season if you win it. Such is the case for Army. No Bowl Game for Army and a disappointing year. But they’ll have reason to celebrate well into the night with a win on Saturday over Navy. Navy is currently a -13 point favorite at 5 dimes sportsbook with a total of 55.5.
Army hasn’t won this Game since 2001. But they came oh so close last year. Army had the ball, down 17-13, at the Navy 13 yard line and botched a handoff which resulted in a fumble recovery for Navy. Game over. Army won the first down battle 26-18 and outgained Navy 418 to 297 (370-167 on the ground).
Note that Our model gets to be pretty damn accurate by this time of the year. I say that because it picks Navy across the board, using full season, last 4 Games and last 7 Games as the data parameters. It has Navy on top 43-21 using season to date data but it also has Navy obliterating Army by 40 points when using the last 4 Games and the last 7 Games.
Neither team comes in with very good yards per point numbers. Navy’s numbers are better, but not by a whole lot. Using those numbers to make a line and factoring in the slightly more difficult Schedule strength of Navy, we’d make Navy roughly a -7 point favorite. That goes against the model of course, but using this method, it suggests there’s some value taking +13 with Navy.
The public loves Navy in this spot. When looking at the betting trends at 5dimes.com, it shows that 80% of the wagers taken on this Game have come in on the Midshipmen.
Lastly, there’s the motivational edges to explore. To be clear, both sides should be sky high. It’s a goal every year before the season starts for these teams to win this Game. But the feeling here is that if there’s a motivational edge to be had this year, it belongs to Army. Navy has a Bowl Game to look forward to and a trip to Texas in a few weeks, regardless of the outcome of this Game. For Army on the other hand, this is it. They can lose and end their season 3-9 or they can win and go 4-8 AND celebrate like they just won the Super Bowl.
Adding to the motivation is the fact that Army coach Rich Ellerson could very well be on his way out. A win here could save his job. Will we see his players rally and play hard for him? It’s a possibility.
If we look at the last two years, we see Games decided by 4 and 6 points. That alone tells you Army is close. Then consider that Army came within 2 TD’s of Stanford and had a similar result to Navy’s against Western Kentucky and you can start to make a case for Army putting up a pretty good fight here.
Navy is the better team and we don’t like to go against Our model. However, we do like to go against the public and when looking at recent results, and the Games mentioned above like Stanford, taking a boatload of points in such a huge emotional Game may not be a bad idea. Call it revenge multiplied by 11. Might be worth waiting to see if any +14’s show up on the board, but still good at +13. Nothing strong here and to be clear, we are not using this as a Key Release. Army +13