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Armed Forces Bowl Preview: LA Tech vs Navy Over/Under Tip

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs(8-5) @ Navy Midshipmen(9-4)

  • Where: Amon G. Carter Stadium. Fort Worth, Texas
  • When: December 23, 2016 4:30 pm EST
  • Spread: Louisiana Tech -6.5 (-115) vs Navy +6.5 (-105)
  • Moneyline: Louisiana Tech (-250) vs Navy (+210)
  • Over / Under: Over 67 (-115) vs Under 67 (-105)

For a program from a Group-of-5 conference, winning respect from bettors and pundits is a 2-fold process. First, you must dominate the competition in your own league. If it happens to be a strong yet under-appreciated conference, too bad – you will lose a game or 2 and be written off, as has happened to Houston and other excellent G5 teams in 2016-17. Meanwhile, you must play your best against P5 opponents. If you threaten but lose to a Top-25 school in your OOC schedule, it will be counted against them more than counted in your favor.

Louisiana Tech has tasted both pills this season. Unveiling a marvelous offense that has enjoyed 4208 passing yards from QB Ryan Higgins, the Bulldogs began their year by going to Arkansas and nearly prevailing in a 21-20 heart-breaker. LaTech missed a field goal that would have put them ahead 23-14 early in the 4th quarter, and later chose to punt when trailing by 1 with 4 minutes left. The Razorbacks converted a 4th down near mid-field and ran out the clock.

No surprise that a mid-season 7-game winning streak (6 of the wins against conference opponents) and a C-USA division championship was in the offing. Long forgotten as an average southern FBS team, the Bulldogs showed they could stand up athletically to a strong SEC school, and fight off the distraction of a fanatical opposing crowd. Those 2 traits are uncommon in the C-USA, and made a lot of LaTech money line bettors happy in 2016. But the team has remained off-the-radar for most of the media and viewing public.

Navy is a program on the brink, facing a grim truth that the progress of years could be slipping away. Since nearly knocking off Ohio State in 2014, the Midshipmen have snagged 3-star recruits with upside and gained respect as a national conversation-starter. But injuries have decimated the team in 2016-17, overshadowing (for the moment) a truly brilliant year by a backup QB.

Cash players were skeptical when Will Worth took over for injured senior QB Tago Smith exactly 1 game into the season. Navy lost to Air Force in a rout, but then retooled their offense for a slower, less-experienced but tenacious and pass-savvy big man. Smith’s classmate suddenly came alive, leading a 46-point follow-up as the Middies knocked off Houston.

LA Tech vs Navy PreviewNot only was Will Worth smart and strong as a bull when running inside, his touch on down-field throws led to a 1198-yard passing year and a nightmare for opposing DCs. Against SMU, Navy scored every time it had the football in all 4 quarters. At 1 point, point totals involving the Mids went to the over 6 of 7 times.

A broken foot later, and that’s all a memory. Losing the AAC championship to Temple was bad enough. But down to its 3rd string at QB, Navy’s offense was putrid in the loss to Army. The green-as-grass Midshipmen defense may not be able to hold up in a bowl game unless the offense can reverse the trend.

Live bet on Louisiana Tech to win?

Louisiana Tech is a division champion, with the best offense to come out of Ruston in a long time. The unit is well balanced, with junior RB Jarred Craft enjoying a 1000+ yard season.

As for Higgins, he passed for 454 yards and 5 touchdowns in an October win over visiting Western Kentucky. Against Rice a few weeks later, the 6’2″ senior passed for over 200 yards in the 1st half as the Bulldogs took a 41-0 lead at the break.

But watch the offense early. Navy’s only hope to slow down the ‘Dogs is to disrupt their timing with zone-blitzes and other chicanery. The Mids will not have the speed and experience to defend a well-executed passing game on Friday, so if Higgins appears smooth as silk throwing to Trent Taylor and Carlos Henderson in the 1st quarter, live bet at least 1-unit on LA Tech to cover ATS at Bovada.

Navy will bounce back, but how far?

It is said that when Army was a national powerhouse around a century ago, a 14-2 loss to Navy wore so badly on head coach Red Blaik that he might as well have worn a “14 to 2” sticker on his forehead for 3 years.

But times change. Though the Army-Navy rivalry is still important, modern coaches and athletes are able to keep losses to fierce rivals in perspective. Does anyone think the 2016-17 Dallas Cowboys would trade a Super Bowl win for a rematch with New York?

Wagerers should not assume Navy will be down for this game. What you can assume is that an injury-plagued offense will be in run-only mode. The Mids are missing multiple A-backs with Toneo Gulley out for the season and Darryl Bonner listed as questionable for Friday.

OC Ivan Jasper experimented with putting QB Zach Abey in Pistol and Shotgun looks against Army. But facing LaTech’s explosive offense, Jasper will keep Abey under center and try to control the ball and shorten the game. That could lead to surprise value in the under.

2016 Armed Forces Bowl pick: Bet on under 67 points

Odds-makers are claiming a consensus in the betting pool for LaTech to win handily and blow out the over. Sell short.

Navy is from the stronger conference, and managed to beat Houston and Notre Dame this season. Louisiana Tech has lost their last 2 games, and will not game plan a perpetual 2-minute drill for Higgins. A 35-31 win for the Bulldogs is safely within the under. The Mids probably won’t score enough to win, but they will play hard and fight for ball control with all 4 downs.

Bet the under for Louisiana Tech vs. Navy 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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