Army Black Knights vs. Navy Midshipmen Pick 12/14/19
Army Black Knights (5-7 SU, 5-7 ATS) vs. Navy Midshipmen (9-2 SU, 8-3 ATS)
When: Saturday, December 14, 3 p.m. EST
Where: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia
Point Spread: ARMY+10/NAVY -10 (GTBets - 100% REAL CASH bonus on deposits from $100 to $500!)
Total: O/U 41.5
And as always, the college football regular season comes to a close with the Army-Navy Game, which will mark the end of the year for Army and possibly the end of the Black Knights’ hold on the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. Army couldn’t get the requisite .500 record to make a bowl game, but it does still have the chance at holding the trophy by forcing a three-way tie with Air Force, which beat Army and lost to Navy. It’s also a chance for Army to extend its winning streak over Navy to four, something the Black Knights hadn’t managed since 1996 when they had a five-game string over the Midshipmen.
For Navy, the postseason and a showdown with Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl looms after this game. But after three straight losses to Army, there’s no question that the Mids firmly have their minds on defeating the Black Knights and bringing the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy back to Annapolis. The only way to wrest it from the holder is to beat both the other schools, which is something Navy hadn’t done since 2015 when it scored a 21-17 win over the Black Knights. Before that, however, this game was Navy’s place to dominate, as it held a 14-year winning streak over Army before the Black Knights regained the upper hand in 2016.
How the Public is Betting the Army/Navy Game
The line has held tight at 10 points, and the total has held at 41.5.
Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins is questionable with a leg injury.
Backs Tazh Maloy (foot) and Travis Brannan (undefined) are both questionable, as is wide receiver Mychal Cooper, who was out last week with an undisclosed injury.
When Army Has the Ball
Here’s all you need to know about Army football: quarterback Kelvin Hopkins has nearly twice as many rushing attempts as he does passing attempts. For the season, Army has only thrown 120 passes, and the Black Knights have completed less than half of them. But if Hopkins doesn’t play, the Black Knights would be losing their leading rusher as well as the man who makes their triple-option go. If he can’t play, the job would fall to Jabari Laws, who actually gains more yards per carry than Hopkins but lacks his experience with the system, as he’s only a sophomore. If Hopkins cannot go, expect Laws to lean on backs Connor Slomka and Sandon McCoy to take some of the pressure off of him. The real question is whether the Black Knights can make a dent in the Navy run defense, which ranks 17th in the country. As the Black Knights can’t pass, if Navy can stop the Army ground game, Army really doesn’t have a Plan B.
When Navy Has the Ball
Like the Black Knights, the Midshipmen will run the ball as long as they possibly can. In fact, Navy throws it even less often than Army does, attempting 94 passes all season. But while Malcolm Perry can’t pass any better than Hopkins, his rushing skills are nothing short of outstanding. Perry has called his own number 238 times this season, more than twice as much as any of his teammates, and the results have been 1,500 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns. On the rare occasions where the ball doesn’t go to Perry, who carries on more than a third of Navy’s snaps, Nelson Smith is likely to get the call for long yardage while Jamale Carothers handles the short yardage. Carothers has 13 touchdowns this year, and the Navy backs should have room to run against a defense that’s been above average, but nowhere near on the level of Navy’s defense.
The total is low because these teams don’t score a lot against each other. That’s in large part because both offenses are built to take time off the clock. The teams have met in Philadelphia in nine of their past 13 matchups, and only one of those managed to go over the current total of 41.5, that being a 31-17 Navy win in 2010. Otherwise, the teams have gone under the current total seven years running, with Navy’s 34-7 win in 2013 marking the only time in the past seven years that the teams have scored more than 40 points. In the past five years, the magic numbers have been 27 and 38, as the teams hit 27 points in 2014, 2017, and 2018, while 2015 and 2016 produced identical 21-17 contests. Overall, the under is 14-2 in the past 16 matchups.
As for 2019, Navy has been a great cover team, while Army has been favored by too much too often because fans still remember last year’s outstanding squad that humiliated Houston in the bowl game. But there’s a reason to believe that Army has a good shot at staying with Navy: the underdog has covered in four of the past five and pushed in the fifth, in large part because seven of the previous eight Army-Navy games have been decided by seven points or less.
The good news is the temperature is supposed to hit 60 degrees. The bad news is that it’s forecast to rain all day in the City of Brotherly Love.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread
Both Jeff Monken of Army and Ken Niumatalolo are Paul Johnson disciples, and that means that both will be trying to run the ball as much as they can. Throw in the weather and the fact that both teams know exactly how to stop this system, and you’re looking at a low-scoring affair. The triple-option is really only difficult to defend when you don’t see it often. These teams see it every day and will have no problem adjusting to its intricacies. Throw in the rain, and you have a recipe for a low-scoring affair.
With that being the case, there are two schools of thought. On the one hand, do you take Navy, which has the better defense and can completely shut Army down? Or do you take Army, given that the rain and the two defenses could stop both offenses cold and this game could be a tight, 10-3 affair?
The bottom line is that Navy has the better defense, Navy has the healthier quarterback, and Navy has the stronger motivation, given that it comes off three losses to Army. This game is the seniors’ last chance to beat Army before they graduate, and that motivation is huge in Annapolis.
I think the best bet is the under, but give me Navy as well.