Army Black Knights (5-6, 4-7 ATS) vs. Navy Midshipmen (8-4, 7-5 ATS), Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Saturday, Dec. 12th, 2:30 PM Eastern, CBS
By Z-Man of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Middies -14/Knights +14
College football’s regular season comes to an end Saturday with the playing of one of the great rivalries in the game, as Army and Navy meet for the 110th time, this year in Philadelphia.
Most college football betting sites opened this game with Navy favored by 14 points, with a total of 41, and those numbers have held steady in early betting action.
The Middies are also being offered at right around -600 on the few moneylines listing this game, with Army getting upwards of +450.
In their first season under new head coach Rich Ellerson, the Black Knights are enjoying their best campaign in a decade. And with a win Saturday Army would earn its first bowl berth since they lost the 1996 Independence Bowl to Auburn.
The Knights opened the season by winning two of their first three games, over Eastern Michigan and Ball State, then lost two in a row, then beat Vanderbilt, then lost three in a row. The Cadets then picked up a win over VMI of the FCS, then rallied late and won at North Texas 17-13 back on Nov. 21.
So Army comes into Saturday’s game having had almost three weeks off.
The Knights were fortunate, though, to get their fifth win at North Texas. They got outgained 447-287, but forced five Mean Green turnovers, all in Army territory, blocked a field goal and scored with just over a minute to go to win 17-13.
Navy, meanwhile, has already earned a bid in a bowl for the seventh-straight season; they’ll play Missouri in the Texas Bowl in Houston on New Year’s Eve afternoon.
The Middies opened their season with a close loss at Ohio State, and two weeks later lost at Pittsburgh to fall to 1-2. But Navy got healthy on the weaker part of its schedule, winning five games in a row before falling to much-improved Temple by a field goal. The Mids then held on to beat Notre Dame in South Bend 23-21, and got to 8-3 with a win over Delaware. But they then got upset out in Hawaii Nov. 28.
So Navy enters this game having had two weeks off.
Running Coach Ellerson’s triple-option, Army QB Trent Steelman has thrown the ball just 90 times this season. But he’s also leading the team in rushing with 690 yards.
Meanwhile, running Navy’s option attack, Middies QB Ricky Dobbs has only thrown the ball 84 times this season. But he also leads his team in rushing with 932 yards, and has scored 23 TDs, which ties the FBS record for rushing touchdowns in a season by a quarterback.
On the season, the Cadets are getting outgained, on average, by a 311-283 YPG margin, but outrushing opponents 212-149.
The Middies are outgaining opponents this season 352-346, and outrushing them 280-128.
These two teams have played two common opponents this season; Army lost to Air Force 35-7, getting outgained 291-236, while Navy beat the Falcons in overtime 16-13, even though they also got outgained, 240-209; also, the Knights lost to Temple 27-13 despite outgaining the Owls 256-195, while the Middies lost to Temple 27-24, getting outgained 311-254.
Navy has won seven in a row in the series with Army. Last year, the Middies drubbed the Knights 34-0, outgaining them 430-154. And in 2007, the Midshipmen won this game 38-3.
Navy leads the all-time series with Army 53-49, with seven ties.
The totals are 3-8 in Army games this season, which have averaged just 39 points, and 5-7 in Navy games, which have averaged almost 50 points.
The Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings at USAToday.com rate the Middies at 73.6, the Cadets at 53.3. So on the Sagarin line, Navy is favored by 20 points for Saturday’s game over Army.
Z-Man’s Pick: Army just doesn’t have enough weapons on offense. I like Navy to win and cover.