The Military Bowl features two of the coldest teams in the country. Navy has lost six of its last seven Games, while Virginia has lost five of its last six. One of these teams will have to break that trend in this one, but oddsmakers aren’t confident in either side. The Cavaliers were early -2 point favorites at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
Navy was in this bowl two years ago and ended up dominating Pittsburgh in a 44-28 win. They’ll try and do the same in this one and that won’t be completely impossible. While the Midshipmen have struggled since winning their first five Games, all of their losses came against teams in a bowl Game. It’s hard to fault them for losing Four of those on the road with the others being at home to undefeated UCF and in a battle against Army.
It’s almost the same situation with Virginia except that most of its losses were blowouts late in the season. All six of Virginia’s losses came by at least 10 points and the closest one was the final Game in which it was shutout by Virginia Tech. The good news for the Cavaliers is that they already beat the triple-option of Georgia Tech in an impressive 40-36 road win. Comparing them to Navy isn’t an exact science as TaQuon Marshall threw the ball 22 times in that Game, but it’s close. The only problem is that Virginia still gave up 220 rushing yards on 4.2 yards per carry in that contest.
For the season, Virginia is giving up almost 180 rushing yards per Game on 4.4 yards per carry. Navy’s offense hasn’t been as high scoring as in recent years, but this is still a group that can churn out yards against beatable front lines. The issue has been finding the end zone. Quarterback Zach Abey has been solid in his first season as the full-time starter, rushing for 1,325 yards and 14 touchdowns. Tailbacks Malcolm Perry (1,068 yards, 9 TDs) and Chris High (520 yards) have done the rest.
As long as Virginia’s questionable run defense shows up, this will be a competitive Game. The question will be what the Cavs can do offensively after inconsistency most of the season. From scoring 10 points to Boston College and then having their way with Miami early, this offense has had some highs and lows. Navy doesn’t do one thing particularly well on the defensive side, so that should help in some matters.
Virginia hasn’t run the ball well all season with Jordan Ellis (799 yards) averaging just 3.9 yards per carry. But if Ellis can find room against a defense that allows 4.6 yards per carry, that would mean trouble for Navy because that will only open up passing lanes for quarterback Kurt Benkert. The junior has shined at times, but ultimately has been hard to trust, failing to complete more than 53 percent of his passes in five of the last six Games. He has 25 touchdowns and only eight picks, but when you fail to put points on defenses from Indiana and Louisville, those overall numbers don’t matter.
Navy has seen some potent passing offenses this season and kept the likes of Memphis and UCF below 32 points and that’s saying something. Navy will be the easier team to back because of those reasons, but Benkert has the arm to win it late. The Midshipmen have covered in their last Four bowl Games. The over has hit in Virginia’s last Four bowl Games, but the under is 9-2 in Navy’s last 11 at a neutral site.
Our Pick – Navy -1.5