Military Bowl Point Spread Pick

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Military Bowl

Pitt

vs.

Navy

12/28/15

It’s not often that Navy finds itself ranked at the end of the regular season, but here they are at 10-2 overall, finishing only one win away from playing in the AAC title Game. They’ll take on a Pittsburgh team that played well in its first season under Pat Narduzzi and finished 8-4. The Midshipmen opened as a -3.5 point favorite (as seen at 5 Dimes Sportsbook) playing in the Military Bowl at Memorial Stadium, home of Navy.

While this is basically a road Game for Pittsburgh, they at least aren’t too far from their stadium, only a little over a Four-hOur drive. The Panthers started the season off at 6-1 with the only loss being by three points at Iowa. But once their Schedule picked up, losses mounted against UNC, Notre Dame and Miami. They had a pretty favorable ACC Schedule and that helped to a 6-2 Conference record, but road wins at Virginia Tech and Duke can’t be discounted.

As usual, Navy has the least amount of time to prepare for this Game because of the Navy-Army matchup the week after everyone else plays. Still, the Midshipmen have won two straight bowl Games with Keenan Reynolds leading the way. Navy had an impressive season, but it’s kind of hard to valuate them playing in the AAC. They did beat Four bowl teams, so that should be a good enough sign. And outside of the Army Game, Navy won every home Game by double digits.

In like opponents, Navy lost at Notre Dame 41-24, while Pittsburgh hosted the Irish in a 42-30 loss.

Pittsburgh already played a triple-option team earlier this year and while they beat Georgia Tech, the result wasn’t exactly pleasing. The Panthers allowed 376 rushing yards and 3 TDs on the ground along with 9.4 yards per carry. Somehow, they walked away with a 31-28 win in that Game. And yet, Pittsburgh’s strong suit is actually in run defense. Maybe that experience against the Yellow Jackets will help here.

This is the final collegiate Game of Keenan Reynolds’ career and it’s hard to see him going out without a bang. Reynolds has a number of records, most notably 85 rushing touchdowns in his career. Reynolds was actually a better passer this season, but that doesn’t really matter in this offense. He finished the regular season with 1,229 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns. OUtside of him, Chris Swain has been the most productive back with 909 yards and 10 TDs.

If Pittsburgh can’t stop the triple-option in this Game, they may not get the same result as against Georgia Tech. At the least, Navy’s defense can be beat and that was seen in their 52-31 loss at Houston late in the season. On the other hand, the Midshipmen held Memphis and Tulsa both below 22 points.

One thing going for the Panthers is that they seem to keep every Game close, despite their 6-6 ATS record. Their worst loss was by 12 points against Notre Dame, with the other three losses being by seven points or less.

Simply put, they compete. However, they will be without their offensive coordinator in this Game who moved on to a bigger school. That could affect quarterback Nathan Peterman the most. He’s had a solid season with 19 TDs and 5 INTs, but only transferred to Pitt because of its offensive coordinator. Peterman and receiver Tyler Boyd (85 receptions, 873 yards, 6 TDs) will need to find each other early and often for the Panthers to put points on the board. But if Pittsburgh gets any kind of lead, they’ll likely lean on running back Qadree Ollison a decent amount, who touches the ball a ton in wins. He’s surpassed 100 yards five times this year and all of those came in wins.

While Navy is playing on its home field, it can’t be ignored that Pittsburgh has lost just one Game on the road this year. In his first bowl Game as head coach, Narduzzi will have his troops ready.

The Panthers have covered in six straight December Games, while the Midshipmen have covered in Four straight Games on field turf. These teams met in 2013 with Navy winning 24-21 as Reynolds ran for 93 yards and a touchdown.

Our Pick – Pitt +3