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Navy at Connecticut

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Navy at Connecticut

Venue/Location: Renschler Field, Storrs, CT
Time/TV: Friday, Nov. 1 (ESPN2, 8:00 p.m. ET)
Line: Navy -27.5, Total 55

Visibility on the national stage is one of the greatest recruitment tools there is for any college football program, and that may be the nicest thing I can say about the excitement level for Friday's showcase game between Navy and Connecticut.

The American Conference as a whole would definitely prefer to see two of their other programs take center stage in the stand alone spot on Friday night, but they do get center stage in prime time on Saturday with Memphis hosting SMU on national television. Everyone's got to start somewhere though and for this weekend, we get this Navy/Connecticut game with the Midshipmen as nearly four-TD road favorites.

Navy will never turn down a showcase spot, but recruitment isn't a huge issue for them given their uniqueness as a program – on and off the field. At 6-1 SU, this is a great spot for them to showcase their winning ways, but I can't imagine there is too much intrinsic motivation to be at their best in a game they are expected to win big.

Conversely, Connecticut football fans probably didn't know that words like “national television”, “stand alone prime time game” and “Friday night lights” would ever be applied to their team. This Huskies team hasn't had a winning season since 2010, and with a 7-29 SU record over the past three years, and coming into this week at 2-6 SU, they've really done little to deserve this showcase spot.

Yet here they are, under the lights in a game that's got to intrinsically feel like a Bowl game for them with all the ESPN camera crews around. They'll take whatever time they can get nationally to showcase the university, and hopefully, from their standpoint at least, it isn't a complete and utter embarrassment.

So after connecting on the 'over' in the USC/Colorado game last Friday night, can we find a winner in a game like this that really isn't all that intriguing at all?

There is no argument that Navy is by far the better football team in this game and in all likelihood should come away with a relatively easy win on the scoreboard. Connecticut gives up 37.8 points per game as it is, and with that essentially being the exact same number Navy's offense has put up per game this season (37.9), Navy should spoil the party early for home fans looking to be witnesses to a shocking upset.

However, laying that kind of chalk on the road with a Navy team that's just 1-1 SU and ATS on the road this year is not something I'm interested in even entertaining as a betting option given the circumstances. The Midshipmen have a bye coming up after this game before the finish of their year gets exponentially harder - at Notre Dame, vs SMU, at Houston, and then vs Army – with those first two up on the board being ranked foes currently. Focus levels aren't likely to be 100% for Navy here in a game they know they'll win, and with the style they play that shortens games already, being expected to win by this big of a margin is a tough wager to get behind.

We also can't forget about Connecticut likely treating this prime time spot at home as their Bowl game, and coming off a 56-35 win over a much worse Massachusetts team a week ago, it's not like the confidence meter is empty for the Huskies coming into this one. They know they are a bad team overall, but bad teams cover numbers too, and getting this many points at home his highly intriguing on the surface, without the extra situational stuff that is generally positive for Connecticut as well.

The Huskies have covered the number two straight weeks, and hung tough at home two weeks ago when Houston was in town and laying a similar number. In fact, Connecticut's worst loss at home this year was by just 26 points (vs USF), with the other two coming by just single digits.

Navy is on a 1-5 ATS run on the road against a team with a losing record at home which does suggest there will be some complacency on their side in this game, and barring Connecticut shooting themselves in the foot on numerous drives, if both teams use a heavy dose of the running attack on offense, there might not be enough time or possessions for Navy to stay clear of this number.

Service academies aren't ones to generally step out of their comfort zone and try many new things in terms of the passing game, but given who's on tap for Navy down the road, it wouldn't hurt them to try a few more passes here to at least get that stuff on film and force the Notre Dame's and SMU's of the world to be prepared for it.

There is no better game to try that stuff then one you are expected to win easily, and if they were to do so here, it could play into the Huskies hands in regards to staying within this number simply because the execution may not be where it should be. Remember, Navy's got two weeks after this game to prepare for the Irish, and what they put on film in the passing game here may look a lot worse then it does down the road.

A final score of something like 38-14 in favor of Navy is where this game likely ends up, as the lack of energy from there perspective will show up on defense, compared to Connecticut's desire to not get embarrassed on this type of stage. There aren't many in the market who want to have their money riding with a team as bad as Connecticut is, but in this case it's the only way to go in my opinion.

Best Bet: Connecticut +27.5

YTD Record: 4-6 ATS

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