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NCAAF

Dec 11, 2019

Army vs. Navy - Best Bets

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Army vs. Navy

Venue: Lincoln Financial Field
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Time/TV: Friday, Nov. 15 (CBS, 3:00 p.m. ET)
Line: Navy -10.5, Tota. 40.5

The college football regular season is in the books, conference champions have been crowned, and the playoff and bowl games have all been laid out. Meaning the only thing left is the annual Army/Navy game that acts as the unofficial bridge from regular season to bowl season play in the sport.

While the annual tradition on the field for this game showcases how special those involved in either of these programs are on a daily basis, from a betting market perspective, there is an annual tradition involved too. That is, when the Army/Navy game arrives, take the 'under' and already spend your winnings like a Christmas bonus. The 'under' has cashed in 13 straight years in this matchup, and to the shock of no one, this year's total saw nothing but 'under' action out of the gate.

For bettors that love to play streaks and live by the notion that you 100% have to ride streaks until they buck you because you can win multiple units riding said streak and only lose one when it halts, the 'under' in the Army/Navy game is always their glowing example of that case study.

So the question remains, will that streak stay in tact and give the masses another early holiday bonus, or will Scrooge finally show up and let both of these teams put some points up on the scoreboard?

CFB Odds: Navy (-10.5); Total set at 40.5

Before I go further into the total talk here, the side needs to be addressed. Remember, it had quite a streak as well with Navy winning 14 straight meetings from 2002 through 2015. The Black Knights finally squashed that back in 2016 with a 21-17 win and have now rung that up to three straight entering this year's game.

Now, seeing Army as a big underdog in this game is something bettors are quite used to as well, but for a team that saw an absurd amount of support in the preseason season win total market at 'over' 10 wins, you've got to wonder if similar support will show up this week. I'm not sure how you could expect any Service Academy team to win double digits entering the year – their undersized lines (OL and DL) because of their off-field duties are always going to be prone to getting worn down and beat up on by prototypical football teams – and that's not even considering a lack of execution angle that's bound to pop up from time to time in games. That's not to say Service Academy teams aren't capable of winning 10+ games, they definitely are, (Navy will hit 10 wins with a win this week), but to 'expect' it just doesn't make a whole lot of sense. To each his own though.

I bring that up because this Army team was expected to be much better then their current 5-7 SU record coming into this game. And with no Bowl game after this one, what's the best way for Army to put a positive cap on an otherwise disappointing campaign? Beating Navy of course.

A fourth straight win in this rivalry would be only the second time Army's program has accomplished that feat since before 1950 (they won five in a row from 1992-1996), an no matter how the entire season has gone for either program, winning this game ultimately makes their year. Given that Navy severely outperformed their preseason projections – they came into the year with a win total at 5.5 – taking the points with an Army team that's got plenty to prove would be the main way I'd look against the spread.

But that also means that you are going against a senior class at Navy that's yet to experience a win in this rivalry in their careers – yes, I know Navy could win and Army could cover – and given that the Midshipmen have been the ones to be better and more consistent all year long, stepping in front of that can be considered a tricky proposition. Teasing Navy down (or Army up for that matter) is always an option as well, but that means you need something to tease it to. Which brings me to the total.

There isn't a whole lot of need to go into all the main reasons why the 'under' has been so successful, as they are points that are beaten down to exhaustion and there is little need to get latched on to that pipe. If you are going the teaser route, teasing it 'under' the number definitely makes a whole lot of sense, but at the same time, that's going to be the overwhelmingly popular way to play this game, and that can be fundamentally problematic in handicapping routines/behaviors if you aren't at least considerate of the highly popular side.

Instead, let's see if there is a potential case to be made for the 'over'.

Well for one, the fact that Navy outperformed and Army underperformed relative to their preseason projections could actually work in the favor of an 'over' here.

From the Navy perspective, they've found a method that works for them this season and has produced favorable results. They put up at least 20 points in every single one of their games this year, 34+ points in nine of their 11 games, and only had one game finish with a combined score less than 52 points. That was a 35-3 win against USF, and with plenty of 'under' money likely yet to hit the board for this game (it's only Wednesday), we could see this total close at 38 or lower too. Even Navy's game against Air Force saw both teams put up at least 25 points, and if you are looking for a comparable, that's got to be the first place to look.

From Army's perspective, this is their last shot in 2019 to prove that there was at least some truth in that 10-win projection they had coming into the year, and it's not like Navy's defense can't be scored on. Army finished the year by putting up 31+ points in three straight games, and while their tilt with Air Force ended in a 17-13 loss, Army had 214 passing yards – yes 214 passing yards – in defeat. Which leads into my second point...

An 'over' in college football generally relies on needing the underdog to put up points and carry their weight. Given that Army averaged their most pass attempts per game (10.6) this year and most completions per game (5.1) since 2013 is relatively important. That's because the 2013 Army/Navy game was the last time this contest saw 41 or more points. It landed right on the nose of 41 (34-7), and Navy did the majority of the scoring that day, but Army throwing the ball more does lend itself to getting more points. Either through those pass attempts connecting – and likely in a big way – or more clock stoppages to actually slow the game down and give both sides maybe an extra possession or two relative to what we are used to seeing from them in recent years.

Obviously that logic will feel like a stretch for some, as it's always going to be easier to look at 13 straight 'unders' and just blindly ride it, and who knows, maybe we do see it cash for a 14th straight time. But eventually this 'under' run will end, and with both sides having a winning record to the 'over' this year – Army is 6-5-1 O/U while Navy is 7-4 O/U – and both being plenty comfortable in games where they need 30+ points to win, I'm going to look for that streak to be broken this season.

There is always going to be inherent value in looking at the high side of the total in this game because of the long 'under' run it's been on, and with rain in the forecast, maybe we get a few critical turnovers to get some quick points up on the board to help the cause.

It still doesn't hurt to wait as I doubt this number goes much higher, if at all, as it's likely to keep dropping once more recreational money hits the board with this being the only game in town. But I've got to publish my thoughts now, at 40.5, I'm plenty comfortable going against the grain and taking the high side of this total.

Best Bet: Over



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