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AAC Championship Game Money Line Betting – Temple Owls @ Navy Midshipmen

Temple Owls(9-3) @ Navy Midshipmen(9-2)

  • Where: Navy Marine-Corps Memorial Stadium. Annapolis, Maryland
  • When: December 3, 2016 12:00 pm EST
  • Spread: Temple (+1.5) Navy (-1.5)
  • Moneyline: Temple (+135) Navy (-155)
  • Over / Under: Over 62 (-110) Under 62 (-110)

The American Athletic Conference community was about to blow a gasket. It was just over a week ago that Houston, having beaten Oklahoma and Louisville, was being held out of the Top 15 in the College Football Playoff rankings, and Navy – a favorite to win the AAC and winners of 15 straight at home – found themselves an also-ran in polls in favor of Wyoming and Western Michigan.

Objectively, the AAC has looked as strong as the Big 12, at least in 2016-17. Temple, 9-3 division champs headed to this weekend’s title tilt with the Midshipmen, lost to Penn State 34-27. Penn State beat Ohio State, who handled Oklahoma easily in a 3-touchdown final. Navy also beat Houston 46-40, faring twice as well as the Sooners did against the same defense. South Florida would be a scary match-up for anyone right now.

Most AAC contenders’ worst losses have come to each other or to crack-whip rivals like Air Force, which made the disrespect feel even more blatant. Commissioner Mike Aresco lashed out at the media at-large and the Playoff committee to the Capital Gazette on November 24th, saying “We all know the system is flawed. Unfortunately, we have to deal with it.”

But the mood around the AAC has changed abruptly in 48 hours. After laying 75 points on SMU (a game in which the Naval Academy scored a touchdown on every possession) while Western Michigan had early-game episodes in beating Toledo, as of Monday night the Middies found themselves ranked at #19 in the CFP – only 2 slots lower than WMU.

Western Michigan has 1 game left to play, the MAC Championship vs. Ohio this weekend. Meanwhile, Navy has 2 more chances to impress the committee against bowl-worthy opponents, including this Saturday’s championship tilt and the annual Army-Navy scrum.

Now, Aresco finds himself in a different conversation  – will Navy gum up the entire New Year’s bowl works by winning again?

The highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion gets an automatic bid to play in the Cotton Bowl. Assuming the Midshipmen and Broncos win their respective conferences, the Playoff committee will probably decide to wait until after the Army-Navy game to select the Cotton Bowl representative, with costly delays in planning and team preparations for bowl season at many colleges. An anonymous official was quoted by ESPN as saying the entire bowl-planning community is cheering for Temple this Saturday, to avoid that circumstance.

Temple is a good team, with or without a fan club of live-event planners. The Owls’ stout defense is ranked #3 in the FBS and went from 10/29 to 11/26 without giving up an opposing touchdown, shutting out Tulane and UConn in the process. A well-coached unit, Temple has a shot at its 2nd 10-win campaign in 2 years.

But on Saturday, they travel to meet a team that hasn’t lost at home since September 2014.

Navy is a (-155) money line favorite with an over/under of 62 at Bovada.

Navy – Somehow, They Just Keep it Going

If you had asked a pundit what could wreck Navy’s 2016-17 at the outset, they might have answered “injuries at QB and on defense.” HC Ken Niumatalolo is an under-rated recruiter, but the ranks are currently thin. LB Daniel Gonzales is out for the season with a foot injury, and the Mids are banged up enough in the secondary that plebes have gotten significant playing time. Meanwhile long-awaited senior QB Tago Smith tore a ligament in the opening-day tilt with Fordham.

Coaches expected Smith’s backup – the not-too-speedy triple-option QB Will Worth – to run up the middle a few times while serving as game-manager. Instead, Worth has turned into Jordan Lynch – Jordan Lynch in a more dynamic offense with better weapons. The senior has blossomed into an indomitable power-runner with a passer rating of 179.0 and 1363 yards through the air.

But there is no backup plan – for Navy to win games, the option play has to keep working. Last week’s eye-popping performance was great, but the Mids’ defense is too young and flaky to pick up any slack if the offense ever falters.

Temple – Patience is Key

The only way to knock off Navy is to out-Navy them, controlling the ball, game and clock and giving Will Worth and other play-makers less chances to find daylight. Temple’s offense is a terrific compliment to their defense, holding the ball for 34 minutes per game on average. That gives them a real chance on Saturday. “They manage the clock much like we do,” says Navy DC Dale Pehrson. “They don’t play in a hurry.”

The all-important Owl rushing attack is paced by the 2-headed monster of tailbacks Jahad Thomas and Ryquell Armstead, who have carried for a combined 1700 yards even so far in ’16-17. Senior QB Phillip Walker has passed for 2700 yards, but is nursing a couple of minor injuries.

Navy Wins a Squeaker

It looks like there may be no denying Will Worth this season, at least as far as the AAC championship is concerned. With a super-disciplined roster of junior and senior blockers up front, Navy has scored on an astounding 34 of its last 38 possessions while facing in-conference competition. It may take a P5 champion in a major bowl game to slow down that kind of attack.

Temple certainly has a puncher’s chance, and there may also be value in the over. 6 of Navy’s last 7 games have gone over the O/U.

Finally, an interesting prop-future could be wagered on the winner of this game going on to a New Year’s Six bowl. If Navy crushes Temple and Western Michigan looks sloppy in either victory or defeat against Ohio, it could happen.

But the safest play is a money line bet on the hosts to prevail. It won’t be easy, but the winning streak in Annapolis should extend to 16 games this weekend.

Take Navy to win at Bovada Sportsbook.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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