San Diego State Aztecs (10-2 SU, 8-4 ATS) vs. Army Black Knights (9-3 SU, 6-6 ATS)
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Date/Time: Saturday, December 23, 2017 at 3:30PM EST
Where: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: SDSU -7/ARMY +7
Over/Under Total: 46.5
In the Armed Forces Bowl, the San Diego State Aztecs battle the Army Black Knights in Fort Worth on December 23. Each team is coming off a successful year they would love to finish on a high note. Army is coming off its most successful season in years, a nine-win campaign where they were able to beat Navy in their last game on the 9th. San Diego State won ten games this season, last beating New Mexico, 35-10, on November 24. With four straight wins, the Aztecs closed the season well and looks to add a nice win in this bowl-game.
It was a good sign to see Army beat Navy, 14-13, in their last game. For 14 years, they couldn’t beat Navy, but this is a different Army team under head coach Jeff Monken. He has this group in order and coming off the most wins they’ve had since 1996. After beginning the season at 2-2, they went on a nice run where they won 7 out of 8 games to finish the season. Their only loss in that stretch was a 3-point loss to North Texas. They lead the nation in rushing yardage and while they have less passing-yardage than any team in the country, they have a pretty reliable formula for success, fortified by a defense that has been stingy more often than not this season.
One might say the Army offense is one-dimensional, but there is a lot of variance within that one dimension. Eleven different players have rushed for a touchdown on this offense in 2017, led by QB Ahmad Bradshaw. On the season, Bradshaw has 1556 yards on the ground with 12 touchdowns. Their most-valuable running back was Darnell Woolfolk, who added a dozen rushing touchdowns. Andy Davidson and Kell Walker also make big contributions. Teams know what is coming, but stopping it is another matter. San Diego State has shown a good run-defense this season, but a unique Army approach could offer a different look.
In allowing less than 21 points per game this season, the Army defense has shown itself to be a capable one. They say a friend to the defense is a good rushing offense and Army definitely has that. They have been effective against the pass and the run this season and only embarrassed twice, once against Ohio State. Otherwise, they’ve been very respectable. They look to apply some of their playmaking ability in this game, including a pass-rush led by John Voit and Alex Auckerman. They’ve done pretty well this season. They will be tested in this game, with Army’s run-defense really being put to the test by the Aztecs’ run-game. But the only common matchup of these two teams paints the Army defense in a good light, with the Aztecs beating Air Force 28-24, while Army shut out Air Force, 21-0.
The Aztecs did a lot of nice things in 2017 en route to a 10-2 mark. There were the back-to-back losses to Boise and Fresno State, the two division champs in the MWC, but they were otherwise perfect. Among their key moments of the season were wins over Pac-12 schools Arizona State and Stanford. They run the ball with gusto, led by 2000-yard rusher Rashaad Penny. And they play defense, allowing less than 19 points a game on average. They represent a very tough opponent for Army in this game.
The big weapon on the San Diego State offense is Rashaad Penny, a 2000-yard rusher who is also dangerous as a ball-catcher and a return-man. On the season, he has 23 total touchdowns. Also making it happen on the ground and returns in Juwan Washington, who pitched in with 715 yards on the ground. The aerial attack is not great, but QB Christian Chapman is a solid presence behind center and doesn’t foul things up, having thrown only three interceptions this season. His main targets are reliable Mikah Holder, Kahale Warring, and Fred Trevillion, who doesn’t see the ball a ton, but when he does get it, look out!
The defense has been a big part of San Diego State’s success this season. They have shown good balance against the opposing run and pass, but run-defense is an area in which they thrive, which could pay off in this game. They get pressure from LB Rodney Lakalala, Jay Henderson, and Chibu Onyeikwu. In the secondary, Kameron Kelly, Ron Smith, and Trenton Thompson have created a lot of big plays all season long. Again, Army’s run-approach can throw a lot of teams off and we’ll see how the Aztecs hold up. In their favor is how they finished the season, allowing a total of just 47 points in their last four games.
San Diego did finish the season well and the time off for this game should help rest their legs. Still, playing more recently could help Army. This is also a better bowl fit for the Black Knights, as the Aztecs were probably hoping for something better than a bowl-game in Fort Worth on the 23rd of the month after a ten-win season. I think this is an easy spot to overlook Army, but they have what it takes to give San Diego State a really good game. I see a hungry Army team hanging in there and covering the spread in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Army Black Knights plus 7 points. - Move the line on this game up to 20 points by inserting it into a 20 point football teaser at the web’s best sportsbook: 5dimes!