Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (8-5 SU, 7-5-1 ATS) vs. No. 25 Navy Midshipmen (9-4 SU, 7-5-1 ATS)
College Football Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl Preview
Date/Time: Friday December 23rd, 2016. 4:30PM (EST) 2016
Where: Amon G. Carter Stadium Fort Worth, T.X.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: LT 5.5/NAVY +5.5
Over/Under Total: 66
The 2016 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl will take place on Friday December 23rd when the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs meet the no. 25 Navy Midshipmen in Fort Worth at Amon G. Carter Stadium. The Armed Forces Bowl has an outstanding history of saluting our nation’s servicemen and this year’s bowl pairing will mark the 8th time that a member of the United States Military Academy has participated in the last 10 years. This year the Midshipmen will carry that role as they look to reach 10 wins for the 2nd straight season which would be a first for the program.
However, Navy will be an underdog when these two teams meet on December 23rd as the Midshipmen are currently listed as 5.5 point dogs to the 8-5 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. So why is the team that is ranked with the better record listed as underdogs in this matchup? Well that answer is easy because this Midshipmen team is without star quarterback Will Worth who was lost for the season in the loss to Temple. I personally rambled about how much Worth meant to this Navy football team in my Army-Navy preview and it ultimately led me to believing Army could end their 14 game losing streak to the Midshipmen. That bold prediction came to fruition in the season finale when the Black Knights scored the 21-17 upset.
Worth has accounted for 33 of Navy’s 64 touchdowns on the season (51.5%). Therefore his loss cannot be forgotten nor undermined. It was apparent in the games against Temple and Army that backup Zach Abey did not provide any immediate solution. The sophomore threw 4 interceptions in those two games without any touchdowns while completing just barely over 50% of his passes. Therefore if Navy is going to win this game, it will likely be a product of the wearing triple option style rushing attack that has averaged 310 yards per game this season (4th in FBS) in hopes the Bulldogs defense deteriorates over the course of the game.
The possibility that Navy’s rushing style could wear down Louisiana Tech is not incomprehensible. The Midshipmen have a very test style of offense that is physically demanding for defenses. However, the Bulldogs have played really well against the run this year. The Bulldogs have given up just 131 yards per game on the ground which ranks 30th in the FBS and they have been one of the best run stop units in Conference USA all year. Therefore they match-up pretty well on paper as long as they can hold up over the course of 60 minutes and live up to their potential from a motivational standpoint.
Now I will be the first to point out the fact that the Bulldogs have had some serious concerns on the defensive side of the football this season. The defense has relinquished 32.7 points per game this season which ranks a measly 96th in the FBS. They have consistently been one of the worst passing defenses in the country this season ranking 122nd in the FBS allowing 283 yards per game. Therefore, this matchup gives Navy’s offense the chance to get back on track following the two losses to end the year.
With that being said, I am still not confident this is the greatest matchup for Navy. The Midshipmen did not really have the offense designed to exploit weakness in the Bulldogs’ secondary. As bad as the Bulldogs are against the pass, they are pretty solid against the run. Additionally, Louisiana Tech’s offense has tons of talent and diverse ways to score points. In fact, their offensive numbers have been pretty incredible with quarterback Ryan Higgins passing for 4,208 yards with 37 touchdowns and just 8 picks. His two favorite targets in Trent Taylor and Carlos Henderson have combined for nearly 3,000 receiving yards with 27 touchdowns. Both receivers create pretty advantageous matchups on the outside that I feel will also give Louisiana Tech the edge when they have the football. The Bulldogs ability to mix in the run is also important as they should be able to keep the Navy defense on their heels. I like Louisiana Tech for many reasons here.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Louisiana Tech 5.5
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