It’s been a weird year for Army and Navy, mainly because the teams are in opposite spots than what’s been the norm. Only two years ago, Navy had won 14-straight matchups before Army won the last two as an underdog. It’s a little different for this one as the Knights were -7.5 point favorites with an over/under of 41.5 as of Monday (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) for the Game in Philadelphia.
Army had a fairly easy Schedule, only losing two Games, one at Duke and the other a surprising 28-21 loss at Oklahoma. OUtside of the win at Buffalo, a team with 10 wins, there wasn’t a ton of competition on its Schedule, though it took care of Air Force 17-14. That’s relevant because the Falcons blasted Navy 35-7, which is in line with every other Game this season. Sure, the Midshipmen got a nice win against Memphis early, but struggled to close the season and their only other AAC win was against a Tulsa team also with three wins.
These teams were even last year when Army won 14-13 and both had success in the triple option, but it’s been a vastly different season for the defenses. Army has been excellent, allowing just 106.5 rushing yards and 18.7 points per Game, while Navy is allowing 189 rushing yards and 34.9 points per Game. That rush defense was a major issue against Air Force and it likely will be again.
The Knights averaged a stout 4.7 yards per carry with Darnell Woolfolk (823 yards, 14 TDs) and Kelvin Hopkins (783 yards, 10 TDs) leading the way. Hopkins also hasn’t been terrible passing the ball, which is all that’s needed in the triple-option. He’s at 11.05 yards per attempt on 81 passes and usually had one or two big passing plays per Game, at a minimum. Navy hasn’t stopped anyone on the ground and is giving up 5.2 yards per carry, which will be an issue if that’s how it plays in this matchup. There’s a good chance Army runs up and down the field, while it’s another story for Navy.
Things haven’t been as easy for the Midshipmen even though they’re averaging 5.0 yards per carry, a better rate than Army. The problem is that top rusher (former quarterback) Malcolm Perry (1,035 yards, 7 TDs) has seen his role diminish to just 10 carries in the last two Games. It’s a wonder with this being the final Game of the season that Perry will revert to being the starter, though considering he’s barely touched the ball in the last month, that’s a hard thing to assume. Instead, it’s been Zach Abey taking most of the work and he hasn’t been doing enough, averaging 2.6 yards per carry and he managed only 14 yards on 11 carries against Tulane. It’s been a trying season for the Mids, but they know they have one more chance to revive it. Army has the better defense and was stout in the win over Air Force, allowing just 125 rushing yards on 3.6 ypc. Of course, Air Force also passes much more than the other military schools, but it still ran through Navy for 257 yards.
All of the numbers point to Army in this spot, though these matchups have always seemed to be close throughout the years with six of the last seven being decided by seven points or less. The situation with Perry will be interesting to watch and could change things for Navy.
The Mids are 2-6 ATS vs. a team with a winning record and 3-7 ATS in their last 10 overall. The Knights are 3-9 ATS vs. a team with a losing record and 4-1 ATS in their last five on a neutral site. The under has hit in the last 10 meetings between these schools and Army has covered in the last Four, all as an underdog.
Our Pick – While it’s been a tremendous year for Army, and not so much for Navy, a win here for Navy makes everything all better again.
Our model has Army getting the win and a cover, winning by just about two touchdowns. However, one thing the model can’t take into account, is motivational factors.
The feeling here is that while Navy may be 3-9, they have enough close Games against decent teams to make us think that they can play Army tight in a Game that’s still undecided into the 4th quarter.
In that type of a Game, we want to be taking, not laying. Navy +7