College Football Pick
The final Game of the college football regular season is here and Army is looking to do something it hasn’t since 2001. Navy has won the last 14 meetings between these teams, but it’s not like every meeting is a blowout. The Black Nights have actually covered in Four of the last five meetings if that says anything. Still, the Midshipmen were -7 point favorites early in the week for the Game at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
The Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy was already won by Air Force, who beat both of these teams, but it’s not like that’s all these teams care about.
Maybe the biggest thing to look at in this Game is how last year’s matchup ended. Navy won, but just barely at 21-17 while being 21-point favorites. In addition, Army was a two-win team last season, so this year’s six-win team is at a bit of a different level.
The Black Knights have undoubtedly improved this season and that was seen in road wins over Temple and Wake Forest. Sure, some of their other wins were against bad teams, but they didn’t win those Games last year. And now, Army is headed to a bowl Game, the first since 2010. And despite all of these recent struggles, Army continues to put up a fight no matter the spread in this meeting.
The problem for Navy is that it’s coming off its worst loss of the season in the AAC championship Game and picked up a ton of injuries in the process. So while the Midshipmen are 9-3 and scoring close to 40 points per Game, this won’t be the same group of players going against Army.
For starters, quarterback Will Worth injured his ankle against the Owls and is out for the season. That’s obviously a problem as Worth was not only Navy’s best rusher in the triple-option (1,198 yards, 25 TDs), he was also efficient as needed in the passing Game. Zach Abey came on for Worth in the Temple Game and tossed a couple interceptions on 13 pass attempts. They probably won’t lose much in the rushing Game since triple-option is mostly scheme-based success. Then again, a couple of their backs were also lost to injury last weekend, Toneo Gulley (427 yards) and Daryl Bonner (205 yards).
The problems are evident for the Midshipmen and the reason this spread dropped from double-digits. Throw in how competitive Army has been in recent meetings as well as an extra week of rest and this has all the makings of another Black Knights cover, if not an upset.
That’s made possible by a Navy defense that hasn’t played all that well this season. While Navy is scoring a ton of points, the defense is giving up a good amount, having allowed at least 31 points in the last Four Games.
Army has been running the ball just as well as Navy this season, but isn’t scoring at the same rate. They’ve just had a few Games where nothing went right. That includes scoring six points against both Duke and Notre Dame and only 12 against Air Force. Of course, Navy only scored 14 points against Air Force.
Part of Army’s struggles have come at quarterback because neither Ahmad Bradshaw nor Chris Carter has been as efficient passing the ball as Navy’s Will Worth. With Worth injured, things could even out here. The Black Knights are still averaging 5.6 yards per carry behind a slew of backs and there’s no reason to believe the Navy defense can stop this offense any more than Army can stop the Navy offense.
The Midshipmen have covered in Four straight following an ATS loss, while the Black Knights are just 7-22 ATS in their last 29 Games following a bye week. The under has hit in 10 of the last 11 meetings between these teams and seems like the hardest thing to bet on when they play. Even though their defenses aren’t good, both tend to step up in this meeting.
Our Pick – Navy -7