The Navy Midshipmen square off against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs on Friday, December 23rd in the 2016 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl. Kickoff inside Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth is set for 4:30 EST Friday afternoon with ESPN providing the television coverage.
Navy (9-4) had a great season going until QB Will Worth went down with a season-ending injury in the loss to Temple in the AAC Championship Game. The Midshipmen went on to lose to Army the following week, ending their 14-game winning streak over the Black Knights in the series.
Louisiana Tech (8-5) won Conference USA’s East Division to set up a showdown with Western Kentucky in the Championship Game. The Bulldogs led in the second half but couldn’t hold on, losing a 44-58 shootout to the Hilltoppers.
According to the NCAA football bowl lines, Louisiana Tech is a 4-point favorite over Navy with a total set of 66 points. Take a look at my bowl predictions to get my winners in all 40 games this postseason.
There’s no question that Navy was overvalued in its final two games of the season following a four-game winning streak. The Midshipmen were favorites against Temple and lost 10-34. They were also favorites against Army and lost 17-21. But those two losses have flipped the script, and now the Midshipmen are undervalued again here as underdogs.
I have no doubt that Navy will be playing with a chip on its shoulder now following those two defeats. They weren’t prepared to lose their starting QB in that loss to Temple, and they didn’t recover in time to beat Army the next week. That was a tough spot for the Midshipmen because Army had multiple weeks to prepare for them, while they were coming off that physical game against Temple the week before.
Now the Midshipmen will have had two full weeks to get backup Zach Abey ready to go against Louisiana Tech. He’s really not nearly as a big of a downgrade from Will Worth as this line would indicate. Abey actually averaged 6.0 yards per carry this season compared to 4.5 per carry for Worth. Abey also completed 56.5 percent of his passes, compared to 61.5 percent for Worth.
Louisiana Tech is also coming off its two worst performances of the season and doesn’t deserve getting this much credit from oddsmakers. The Bulldogs were outgained by 172 yards in a 24-39 loss at Southern Miss and by 149 yards in a 44-58 loss to Western Kentucky. I think the Bulldogs will still be deflated following that loss to the WKU in the C-USA Championship Game, similar to how Navy was deflated heading into the Army game.
Navy is 20-4 ATS in its last 24 road games after having lost two of its last three games coming in.
Navy averages 37.4 points and 311 rushing yards per game. The Midshipmen should be able to score at will against a Louisiana Tech defense that is giving up 32.7 points per game this season. The Bulldogs also allow 36.4 points and 460 yards per game in road games this year. They gave up 656 total yards to Western Kentucky in the finale.
Navy played a much tougher schedule than LA Tech this season. LA Tech only beat one team with a winning record this year. Navy beat three teams with winning records in Houston, Memphis and Tulsa, while also beating Notre Dame.
I always love getting Navy in the role of the underdog. The Midshipmen are 91-56 ATS in their last 147 games as an underdog. Navy is 20-4 ATS in its last 24 road games after having lost two of its last three games coming in. The Midshipmen are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 bowl games. The Bulldogs are 2-8 ATS in their last 10 games after allowing more than 200 yards rushing in their previous game.