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NCAA Football – Navy vs. Army Money Line Best Bet

Navy Midshipmen(9-3) @ Army Black Knights(6-5)

  • Where: M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore, MD (Neutral Site)
  • When: December 10, 2016 3:00 pm EST
  • Spread: Navy -6 (-110) vs. Army +6 (-110)
  • Moneyline: Navy (-240) vs. Army (+200)
  • Over / Under: Over 47 (-110) vs. Under 47 (-110)

After a decade of impressive wins listed in fine print, the Navy Midshipmen were finally the talk of college football last week – with most of the country pulling against them.

It was nothing personal. As Navy prepared to play Temple in the American Athletic Championship Game last Saturday, the CFP committee found itself in a bind. Western Michigan had been “rowing the boat” to an undefeated record against over-matched competition in the MAC. But if Navy won the AAC, their strength of schedule promised a fierce debate over which team should receive a Group-of-5 bid to play in the Cotton Bowl. It would have also put much of the bowl-selection process on hold through Army-Navy on December 10th, as the committee would have continued to evaluate the Middies before making a final decision on 12/11.

On Saturday, the conversation changed in less than an hour. Temple scored the 1st 3 touchdowns to take a 21-0 lead in the AAC title tilt. Not the end of the world – Navy’s prolific offense had put up 75 points against SMU the previous weekend. The Mids’ defense stiffened, allowing the Owls only 6 points over the next 2 quarters.

But Will Worth, the surprise senior QB whose power running and accurate deep ball had taken Navy to the top of its conference, broke his foot on a short carry in the 2nd quarter as Temple won 34-10. The hopes of a conference title are gone, and what had seemed a foregone conclusion against rival Army now looms as a potential 2nd loss in as many weeks.

A similar let-down hampered the Black Knights’ season just 4 games in. Under 3rd-year head coach Jeff Monken – the same Jeff Monken who coached Georgia Southern to an incredible season-ending upset of Florida a few seasons ago – Army beat Temple 28-13 to begin 2016-17 (the most impressive win of any FBS independent all year), won in lop-sided results over Rice and UTEP to race to 3-0, then took a 20-6 lead over an average Buffalo squad. But the Bulls scored the final 17 points and won in OT, and the Knights would lose 4 of their next 6 games.

Still, Monken has steered Army to a 6-5 record and bowl eligibility for the 1st time since 2010-11. But Navy has won the annual contest every year since 2001-02. Is this the year the upstarts finally take down the mighty Midshipmen?

Bovada Sportsbook (Read our review) lists Navy as a no-surprise money line favorite (-240), but the O/U has shrunk by 8.5 points since opening, as bettors react to Worth’s injury.

Navy – Cotton Bowl to Casualty Ward

Navy vs. Army Best BetsNavy is missing 10 starters from its opening-day roster, and that’s not the half of it. HC Ken Niumatalolo’s squad has been decimated at the most important position.

Season-starter Tago Smith went down with a career-ending ligament tear in Week 1. The unheralded Worth was terrific in relief, but his injury means the Mids are down to their 3rd string signal-caller. Sophomore Zach Abey, who has thrown 13 career passes (with 2 interceptions) will start against Army.

Abey is fast and bullish enough to operate the Navy option game on the ground. But he is inexperienced, often making the wrong read and failing to pitch when necessary. Talented A-back Dishan Romine is also questionable for Saturday, meaning that a once-prolific offense may struggle to put up points.

Monkish Focus

In the 2016 off-season, Monken’s Black Knights were coming off yet another losing campaign while plagued with a recruiting scandal after a reportedly-lewd bus trip involving plebes and cheerleaders. As usual, the overall talent level paled in comparison to Air Force and Navy.

But having installed an effective Flexbone offense similar to Niumatalolo’s, the Knights turned it around in 2016 with little more than guts, guile and hard work. QB Ahmad Bradshaw has been a steady hand, rushing for 4.1 yards per carry and 6 touchdowns. Sophomore Andy Davidson leads all Army rushers with 818 yards and 9 tallies.

Defense has also been dramatically improved at West Point, with a 2016-17 squad holding Temple, Duke and Wake Forest to 13 points each, and Homecoming opponent Morgan State to a lone field goal in a 60-3 thrashing.

Take Navy to Win Despite the Injuries

Navy still retains an athletic advantage over Army, mostly because Naval Academy brass are more permissive than their counterparts. Admirals with influence over the Navy program recently lessened the weight-restriction on incoming recruits, allowing bigger and better linemen to suit up. Army fans are still waiting for West Point to make similar changes – currently, Navy’s blockers out-weigh Army defenders by as much as 50 pounds.

QBs like Keenan Reynolds did not allow Navy coaches to take full advantage of the mismatch in recent years, operating a playbook based on skill and deception. But Midshipmen OC Ivan Jasper adjusted to more of a power game in ’16 while utilizing Will Worth’s size and strength up the middle. Saturday’s starter Abey is a poor man’s version of Worth, weighing in at 220 pounds with similar tackle-breaking ability.

Look for a grudging, closely-fought contest with Navy’s OL finally wearing down the Black Knights’ defensive front in the 4th quarter.

I recommend betting 1 unit on the Navy Midshipmen to win (-240) at Bovada. Sign-up using the links on this page to receive a welcome bonus of 50% for up to $250 cash.

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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