No. 25 Navy Midshipmen (9-3 SU, 8-4 ATS) vs. Army Black Knights (6-5 SU, 6-5 ATS)
College Football Week 15
Date/Time: Saturday December 10th, 2016. 3:00PM (EST)
Where: M&T Bank Stadium Baltimore, M.D.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NAVY -8.5/ARMY +8.5
Over/Under Total: TBA
The 119th meeting of the prestigious Army-Navy game will take place this Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. Remarkably this rivalry game between the United States Military Academy and the United States Naval Academy has been dominated by the Midshipmen in the modern era. In fact, Navy currently holds a 14 year winning streak over the Black Knights and they have won 17 of the last 19 meetings. This weekend the 25th ranked Midshipmen will be 8.5 point favorites over the Black Knights as they seek their first back to back 10 win season in school history.
I know this game does not carry any high level importance to the majority of the college football enthusiasts. After all, the 2016 bowl games have already been decided and even the Air Force has already secured the Commander in Chief Trophy with their wins over both Navy and Army earlier this year. However, this game holds enormous bragging rights for our servicemen from both the United States Military and Naval Academies. This season finale between Army-Navy has long stood as the most patriotic game on the schedule and perhaps this is our turn to show some love to the guys that put it on the line for our country.
While so much can be side about what these guys do off the field, let’s get into our expectations for what will happen on the field. The Midshipmen will be 8.5 point favorites when this game kicks off on Saturday and they have been fairly impressive against the number this season going 8-4 ATS with a 9-3 record overall. The Midshipmen suffered a pretty surprising 34-10 beating to Temple last week in a game that decided the American Athletic Conference Championship. Navy was actually small favorites in that game but the Owls defense was dominate against Navy’s dynamic ground attack. Temple was able to hold Navy to just 168 yards on the ground, almost half their average, and forced 3 turnovers in the decisive victory.
It was a game that seemed very out of character for Navy. The Midshipmen have been one of the best teams in the country at protecting the ball with just 9 turnovers lost before that meeting and they had also scored at least 40 points in 5 of the last 6 games prior to the Temple loss. In the weeks prior, Navy hung point totals of 75 and 66 in wins against SMU and ECU during a stretch of games where they also took down the likes of Notre Dame and Memphis. While this would typically be a bounce back opportunity for Navy, there were bigger issues that developed during last week’s loss to Temple and it surrounded the loss of star quarterback Will Worth.
Worth and tailback Toneo Gulley were lost last week which was a huge blow to this team. Worth was nearly everything on offense as he led the team with 1,198 yards and 25 touchdowns on the ground while sporting a pretty decent passer rating if you consider Navy’s rugged option style offense. In total, Worth accounted for 47% of Navy’s offense this season in some form or fashion. Now the offense will turn to sophomore Zach Abbey to pick up the slack. Abbey proved last week that he is capable of handling the load on the ground as he gained 70 yards on 14 carries. However, the question will be if he can get things done when needed through the air as he hit just 7 of 13 passing last week for 104 yards and two interceptions in that loss to Temple.
So now we have an offense that is decimated with their star players along with a new quarterback under center and will be squaring off with the 5th ranked defense in the FBS in Army that has allowed just 288 yards per game. Yikes! On the contrary before anyone jumps on the Army bandwagon in light of these circumstances, the Black Knights have had some awful offensive performances this season. If you throw out the big wins against FCS opponents, the Black Knights have been held to just 12.6 points per game during their last 5 games against FBS opponents.
Army has been able to move the football with the variation of the option but they have just not been able to convert that production into points. Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw has completed just 42.9% passing this year with 4 scores and 8 picks which has hindered their ability to make scoring plays. The need to make just a few plays through the air is critical for these teams that run the ball so heavily and Bradshaw will get another opportunity on Saturday.
Jay's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: This will probably not be the most entertaining game to watch. I get the style of football is somewhat unappealing to some but it will be even worse with Navy now looking for answers on offense. I expect a really low scoring game and I believe Navy is on upset alert mainly thanks to what the Black Knights can do defensively. Take Army +8.5.
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