Armed Forces Bowl Odds

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The Navy Midshipmen (7-4) are set to do battle with the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (8-4) in the 2014 Armed Forces Bowl. I am writing this prior to the Army vs. Navy game so the Midshipmen will either have one more win or one extra loss depending on the outcome.

This contest will take place in Fort Worth, TX inside of Amon G. Carter Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 11:45 EST on Monday, December 30 with ESPN providing the television coverage. Taking a look at the odds in Las Vegas, I find Navy installed as a 6-point favorite over Middle Tennessee.

Why Navy Covers

The Midshipmen have been a bettors’ best friend all season. They have gone a sensational 8-3 against the spread through their first nine games heading into their battle with Army. They have impressive wins over the likes of Indiana (41-35) and San Jose State (58-52) on the road, as well as Pittsburgh (24-21) at home. T hey even have a couple of good losses at Toledo (44-45) as a 9-point dog, and at Notre Dame (34-38) as a 16.5-point dog.

Middle Tennessee is getting a lot of respect for its strong finish to the season, but a closer look shows that it was beating up on mostly cupcakes down the stretch. The 51-49 win over Marshall was a good one, but the last four have come against UAB, Florida International, Southern Miss and UTEP. This team has not fared very well against some of the better opponents it has faced like Navy. The Blue Raiders were blown out by North Carolina (20-40), BYU (1-37) and North Texas (7-34) earlier this season.

Navy is putting up a very solid 34.4 points and 420.9 yards per game. It ranks 3rd in the country in rushing offense at 320.1 yards per game and 5.4 per carry. Keenan Reynolds is probably the best tripe-option quarterback that has ever come through the program. Reynolds has rushed for 1,124 yards and 26 touchdowns, while also throwing for 1,028 yards and eight touchdowns against two interceptions. Middle Tennessee ranks 80th in the country against the run, allowing 185.8 rushing yards per game. It has allowed 299-plus rushing yards three times this season.

Middle Tennessee ranks 80th in the country against the run, allowing 185.8 rushing yards per game. It has allowed 299-plus rushing yards three times this season.

The Midshipmen are 14-4 against the spread in their last 18 road games against Conference USA opponents. Navy is 5-1 against the number in its last six games overall. Middle Tennessee is 0-5-1 against the spread in its last six non-conference games. The Blue Raiders are 7-19 against the number in their last 26 games after accumulating more than 280 yards passing in their previous game. Navy is 41-17 against the spread in its last 58 road games vs. poor passing defenses that allow a completion percentage of 58% or worse.

Why Middle Tennessee Covers

The Blue Raiders head into the Armed Forces Bowl with a ton of momentum. They have gone a perfect 5-0 in their last five games overall, which includes a 51-49 victory over Conference USA runner-up Marshall. The last three wins have been absolute blowouts over Florida International (48-0), Southern Miss (42-21) and UTEP (48-17). This team is certainly hitting its stride at the right time and will be coming into this game against Navy with a ton of confidence.

Middle Tennessee is putting up 30.9 points and 414.5 yards per game this season. Logan Kilgore has been solid at quarterback, completing 61.2 percent of his passes for 2,289 yards with 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Jordan Parker has rushed for 727 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 5.0 per carry. Reggie Whatley has been a nice change-of-pace back, rushing for 631 yards and three scores on 6.8 per carry.

The Blue Raiders rank 25th in the country in rushing offense at 208.3 yards per game and 5.0 per carry. They should have no problem moving the ball on the ground against a Navy team that ranks 82nd against the run at 188.8 yards per game and 4.7 per carry. The Midshipmen rank 81st in the country in total defense as well, giving up 27.6 points and 419.6 yards per game.

Getting the extra time to prepare for Navy’s triple-option offense is absolutely huge and will favor the Blue Raiders in this one. That’s evident by the fact that Navy is 0-6 against the spread when playing with two or more weeks of rest over the past three seasons. The Midshipmen have lost four of their last five bowl games, including back-to-back blowout losses to San Diego State (14-35, 2010) and Arizona State (28-62, 2012). They like to use deception, but when a team has multiple weeks to prepare for them, it works against Navy.

My Early Lean: Navy -6

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