Army Black Knights vs. Navy Midshipmen
Line: Navy -2.5
Where: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
When: Saturday, 12/10 at 3:00 p.m. ET
One of the most well-known trends in the history of sports betting will be put to the test in the 123rd rendition of Army vs. Navy on Saturday afternoon.
The rivals have gone ‘under’ the betting total in 16 consecutive meetings following Navy’s 17-13 win last season. Oddsmakers are well aware of the trend, opening Saturday’s total at 34.5 points, which was the lowest ever for an Army-Navy game. That has not stopped bettors from taking the ‘under’ anyway, causing the line to dip even further to 32.5 as of Wednesday afternoon. By Thursday morning, DraftKings and South Point had the number down to 32.
Army opened as a 4.5-point favorite at Caesars Sportsbook, but the early betting action has flipped the line to Navy -2.5. Air Force already secured the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy by beating both of these teams earlier this season, marking the first time the Falcons have won the three-way rivalry since 2016.
Only once in the last five meetings has either team scored more than 17 points, and there is going to be a heavy dose of running from both teams again on Saturday. Army ranks second in the FBS in rushing yards per game (304.4) while Navy is seventh (239.5). The Midshipmen have won two of the last three meetings and lead the all-time series 62-53-7.
Navy has not played since Nov. 19 when it earned an outright upset win over then-No. 20 UCF in a 17-14 final. Starting quarterback Tai Lavatai suffered a season-ending injury in October, giving Xavier Arline and Maasai Maynor a chance to play meaningful snaps.
Fullback Daba Fofana has been the key offensively, rushing for a team-high 749 yards and six touchdowns. Navy is coached by Ken Niumatalolo, who has led the Midshipmen to a 10-4 record against Army in his 14 tries.
“They’re representing our country…It’s not a regional game,” Niumatalolo said. “What I think both schools represent, what both schools’ players will do after they play and it being a game that touches all of America, it makes it different. It makes it special.”
Navy has been eliminated from bowl eligibility, but it does come into this game with momentum after springing that upset over UCF as a 14.5-point underdog. The Midshipmen also covered the spread in games against Cincinnati and Notre Dame prior to the upset win, despite having a backup quarterback under center.
They are led by a defense that ranks fourth nationally against the run, allowing just 85.8 yards per game. Linebacker John Marshall ranks fourth in the NCAA in tackles for a loss and fifth in sacks.
Marshall and the Midshipmen defense will be tested by an Army team that was able to keep its bowl eligibility alive with wins over UMass and Connecticut. The Black Knights won those games by a combined scored of 78-24, and two of their other three wins came against FCS opponents. They have not been nearly as good against quality teams, averaging 10 points per game in losses to Troy, Air Force, Wake Forest and Georgia State.
Senior quarterback Cade Ballard attempted one pass and ran once against UMass after sitting out since the loss to Wake Forest with a hand injury. He is listed as questionable to play on Saturday—Ballard has provided Army with a rare semblance of a passing attack, throwing for 221 yards and a touchdown against UTSA early in the year.
Senior Tyhier Tyler has been the primary signal caller, throwing for 317 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for a team-high 600 yards and 12 scores. Junior running back Tyson Riley has added 92 carries for 430 yards and two touchdowns. The Black Knights can secure their bowl eligibility with a win on Saturday, and their defense has held four straight opponents to 17 points or less.
“It’s an intense, incredible contest,” Army head coach Jeff Monken said. “From the moment that the competitors arrive at the stadium, there’s an electricity there that is unrivaled. It’s truly awesome and I’m looking forward to being out there and just having a chance to compete.”
Army has covered the spread in five straight games and has gone ‘over’ in four of its last six games. Navy has gone 7-2 ATS in its last nine outings and has cashed the ‘over’ in five of its last seven contests.
The pick: Army +2.5
I made the mistake of fading the historic low-scoring trend when I took the ‘over’ in last year’s edition of this game, so I’ll stick to a prediction on the side this time around (although I would take the ‘over’ again if I had to pick the total). The early betting action has been all over a Navy team that has momentum coming off its win over UCF, but Army has some good mojo of its own heading into this game. The Black Knights also still have an opportunity to earn their bowl eligibility, which cannot be said for Navy. My bold prediction for this game is that Ballard connects on a deep pass, as he was able to see the field two weeks ago and has had time since then to get even healthier. Army has been undervalued in the betting market of late—the Black Knights are 5-0 ATS in their last five games—and the return of their passing quarterback is not being accounted for.