Pittsburgh Panthers (8-4 SU, 6-6 ATS) vs. Navy Midshipmen (10-2 SU, 8-4 ATS)
Date/Time: Monday, December 28, 2:30pm
Where: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium Annapolis, MD
by Bob, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: PIT +3 / NAV -3
Over/Under Total: 53
Monday, December 28th, the 8th annual Military Bowl will take place in Annapolis with the Pitt Panthers and Navy Midshipmen. The Military Bowl was originally named the Congressional Bowl then immediately was changed to the EagleBank Bowl. However, since 2010, the Military Bowl name has remained solid. This is a yearly showdown between teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and a team that is either from Conference USA or one of the military academies. This season we see Navy repping the academies and Pittsburgh being the ACC selection.
The line for this game currently has Navy as a three point favorite over Navy while the total points are set at 53 combined. As of December 20th, the action was heavy on Navy. 64% of the documented action shows that the public is leaning heavily on Navy to get the cover over Pitt. If this trend stays the same, this game could move to a four or five point spread by kickoff on the 28th. On the season, both teams did pretty well against the spread. Navy was 8-4 while Pitt was 6-6 playing against point spreads in 2015. Both are respectable numbers.
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Navy finished the 2015 season with a record of 10-2. Both of their losses were to teams that were at one time ranked in the top ten in the nation (Notre Dame and Houston). Navy, who runs that triple option style offense, is a rather tough match up for teams that are not accustomed to facing this style of play. To put this style into perspective, the Navy quarterback, Keenan Reynolds was a Heisman Trohpy candidate down the stretch and he only threw the ball 98 times all season. Reynolds passed for 1,077 yards and seven touchdowns the entire 2015 campaign, but he was also the Midshipmens leading rusher with 1,229 yards on the ground and an astounding 21 touchdowns. The kid is legit. This style of offense also allows Navy to have good defensive numbers as well. Navy has the ability to break a huge play at any moment, but they also have the ability to milk the clock and sustain long, time consuming drives that can keep the opposing offense off the field. The key to this game against Pitt is just that. Keep them off the field. Navy needs to do what they do best and stick with it. No need to get fancy, no need to steer away from their usual game plan. Just play Navy Midshipmen football and they will be okay.
The Pitt Panthers come into this game with an 8-4 record which obviously is not as impressive as Navys 10-2, but the schedule played by Pitt was much tougher than Navys. Pitt faced off against teams like Iowa, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, UNC, and Duke. One positive note to take away from 2015 for Pitt though is that they did beat the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 31-28. Why does this matter? Because Georgia Tech runs the exact same style as Navy. Tech coach, Paul Johnson, at one time was the Navy coach. Georgia Tech does throw the ball more than Navy but the overall scheme is identical. The heart and soul of the Pitt offense is the combination of quarterback, Nathan Peterman and running back, Quadree Ollison. Peterman passed for over 2,100 yards in 2015 and had 19 touchdown passes and just five interceptions. Ollison held down the Pitt run game rushing for over 1,000 yards and scoring 10 times. If Pitt can get the offense rolling and not let Navy dictate the tempo of the game, I think they have a real shot of getting not only the cover in this game, but the win. On the defensive side the key is staying in your lanes. That is a term you hear often by teams that are facing an option type offense. Defenders have areas they are to plug and fill. If you try to do too much or leave your lane, that is when the pitches to the outside end up being deadly 50-60 yard plays. Avoid the big plays and Pitt should be able to keep this game close.
I like Navy and their style a lot. I do not like the fact that their schedule was not anywhere near the schedule that Pitt played and I also despise the fact that so many people are on Navy. I have a feeling Pitt does a good job on defense seeing as how they have had a few weeks to prepare for this Navy offense. Pitt wins a close 27-24 game and covers as the underdog.
Bobs Pick to Cover the Point Spread: TAKE THE PITTSBURGH PANTHERS +3!
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