Navy Midshipmen (6-3, 5-4 ATS) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-2, 2-6 ATS), Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Saturday, Nov. 7th, 2:30 PM Eastern, NBC
By Z-Man of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Irish -11/Middies +11
Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish, in need of a flourishing finish if they want to play in an upper-echelon bowl game, welcome Navy’s Midshipmen, who are searching for a seventh-straight bowl bid, to South Bend Saturday for the annual battle between these two golden-headed teams.
Most college football betting outlets opened this game with Notre Dame favored by 11 points, with a total of 55. And through Thursday morning those numbers had held firm. The Irish are also moneylined at right around -425 at most shops, with the Middies getting upwards of +350 as the underdogs.
Navy opened this season with a 32-14 win over Louisiana Tech, then lost at Pittsburgh 27-14, then won five games in a row over Western Kentucky, Air Force in overtime, at Rice, at SMU in OT and over Wake Forest. But the Midshipmen got upset last week by Temple 27-24, losing outright as 6 1/2-point home favorites.
Notre Dame, ranked 21st in the newest USA Today coaches’ poll, opened the season with a 35-0 win over Nevada and a tough 38-34 loss at Michigan. The Irish then won three close ones in a row over Michigan State, at Purdue and over Washington in overtime, then lost 34-27 at home to USC. Since then ND has beaten Boston College 20-16 and, last week, Washington State 40-14 down in San Antonio. But they couldn’t cover the pointspread as 28-point favorites over the Cougars.
And while Navy has covered the pointspread in five of its nine games so far this year, the Irish have only covered twice in their eight games, and only once as a favorite.
Navy’s third-ranked running game has helped the Middies outrush opponents by a 280-137 YPG margin so far this season. Overall, Navy is outgaining foes 351-316.
Notre Dame, meanwhile, is outgaining opponents 458-384, and outrushing them 148-124.
Middies quarterbacks have attempted 70 passes this season, competing 35, with a 3/3 TD/INT ratio.
On the other side of this quarterback match-up, Irish junior Jimmy Clausen is playing his way into Heisman consideration. So far this season the three-year starter has hit on 67% of his throws for 9.0 YPA, which is great, and an 18/2 TD/INT ratio.
As we recall, Navy finally broke through and ended that 43-game losing streak to Notre Dame with that thrilling 46-44 triple-overtime victory in South Bend two years ago. Last year on a neutral field in Baltimore, the Irish led 27-7 in the last two minutes before the Middies tacked on a couple of meaningless touchdowns to make the final 27-21. Notre Dame covered the spread anyway as four-point favorites.
On the injury front, the Irish could get a boost from the return of WR Michael Floyd, who caught five TD passes in three games earlier this year before breaking his collarbone. Floyd is listed as probable for Saturday’s game. Meanwhile, Navy QB Ricky Dobbs, who leads all of FBS ball in touchdowns with 16, missed most of last week’s game with a sore knee, but he’s also listed as probable for Saturday.
The totals are 5-4 in Navy games this season, which have averaged almost 51 points per, while the over/unders are 4-4 in ND games, which have averaged 54 points.
So far this college football season, teams ranked in the USA Today coaches’ poll are 131-24 straight up vs. unranked teams, but only 68-71 against the pointspreads. (The number of straight up games does not equal the number of ATS games, because of unlined games and pointspread pushes.)
The Sagarin PREDICTOR rankings at USAToday.com rate the Irish at 80.3, the Middies at 74.5. Factoring in Sagarin’s updated college football home-field advantage figure of 3.3, and Notre Dame is a nine-point favorite over Navy on the Sagarin line.
ZMan’s Pick: I like the UNDER 55 here.