Navy Midshipmen at Memphis Tigers Pick 9/26/19
Navy Midshipmen (2-0) at Memphis Tigers (3-0)
When: Thursday, September 26, 8 p.m. EDT
Where: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Tenn.
Point Spread: MEM -12 (SportsBetting.ag)
Total: O/U 56
Outlook For Week 5
Navy’s been sitting around waiting for nearly two weeks since routing East Carolina, and the Midshipmen have yet to break a sweat, winning two non-competitive games against the Pirates and Holy Cross, neither of whom is going to be doing much of anything this season.
Memphis is another matter. The Tigers are the two-time defending American West Division champions, and the road to the league championship game goes through western Tennessee until someone says otherwise. So far, nobody has shown any signs of saying otherwise. Not only do the Tigers own a pair of blowout wins, but they’ve also beaten a decent Mississippi squad at home to open the season, suggesting that they’re for real and have every intention of making it three straight trips to the American title game.
How the Public is Betting the Navy/Memphis Game
At most online sportsbooks line opened at Memphis -14 and the over-under at 54.5, but since then, the point totals have increased to 56, and the public money has landed on Navy, leading to the spread being pulled back two points.
Injury ConcernsNavy: The Midshipmen report no injuries. Memphis: Defensive lineman O’Bryan Goodson missed the Tigers’ last game with a leg injury and is questionable against Navy. Wide receivers Pop Williams and Steven Smothers are both out for the season.
When Navy Has the Ball
When you’re facing Navy, you’re facing the triple option, and that means that you’re going to be seeing a lot of running and not much passing. Navy has run 148 offensive plays this season, and just 17 have been pass plays. The Midshipmen do use their wide receivers as extra running backs, so Navy’s version of the triple-option is more like a quadruple or quintuple option given how many possibilities are available to Midshipmen quarterback Malcolm Perry.
Perry usually prefers to either call his own number or hand the ball to fullback Nelson Smith. Together, the two have 63 carries for 332 yards and eight of Navy’s ten rushing touchdowns. When Perry does have to pass, he is a competent thrower, as he’s tossed 11 completions on 16 attempts for two touchdowns. However, Navy will only pass if it absolutely has to or if it’s trying to catch Memphis by surprise. The Tigers are equally adept at stopping the run and the pass, as they give up 116 rushing yards per game and 110 passing yards per game. Look for Memphis to bring its secondary up to try to take away Navy’s outside runs.
When Memphis Has the Ball
The Tigers are a run-first team themselves, but not nearly to the extent that Navy is. Kenneth Gainwell is the main man in the backfield for Memphis with 307 yards and three touchdowns, but he’s far from alone, as Kylan Watkins and Patrick Taylor both have more than 20 carries this season. Memphis quarterback Brady White, unlike his counterpart Perry, is not a running threat by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, look for him to make plays by reading the defense and finding receiver Damonte Coxie for most of the Tigers’ yardage. When Memphis goes for the shot play, Antonio Gibson is likely to be on the receiving end, as the senior has just three catches this year, but two of them have gone for touchdowns.
Something has to give here because these teams are both excellent against the spread inside their conference. Memphis has covered in six of its past seven games in the American, and Navy’s covered in its previous four league games. Navy’s also covered in six straight games overall, dating back to last season.
In recent years, Navy has been a real thorn in Memphis’ paws. Not only did the Midshipmen manage to beat the Tigers last year in an otherwise disastrous 3-10 season, but Navy has won three of the past four meetings between the squads. Navy has also covered in three of those four meetings, with the fourth being a push.
High heat could be an issue at the Liberty Bowl, as temperatures could reach 90 degrees on Thursday.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread
The triple-option lends itself well to staying in football games, especially when your opponents don’t see it often. Memphis sees it once a year, but that doesn’t mean that the Tigers have figured out how to slow it down. Through four meetings, Memphis has never blown out Navy, and this doesn’t look like the game where that’s going to start. The Tigers should win the game, but that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a blowout.
If the line moves another point or two toward Memphis, I’d strongly consider backing the Tigers. But at 12 points, I think the number is a bit too high for Memphis to cover against a squad that has given it a lot of problems in recent years. With this line, I’ll take the Midshipmen to stay in the game long enough to earn the cover.
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