Air Force vs Army Odds, Picks: Take a Service Academy Over? (Nov. 5)

Air Force vs Army Odds, Picks: Take a Service Academy Over? (Nov. 5) article feature image

Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images. Pictured: Army’s Tyrell Robinson.

Air Force vs Army Odds

Saturday, Nov. 5
11:30 a.m. ET
Air Force Odds
-110o / -110u
Army Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

November arrives with the second leg of the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy round robin competition as Army and Air Force meet in Arlington, Texas.

One of the surest bests in college football is the under in games between two service academies. The under has gone 45-13-2 since 2002, and has cashed nine straight times in this particular matchup.

But Vegas is adjusting, and the numbers keep crashing. This game opened at 40.5, dipped into the high 30’s and has moved back to the opening number at most shops.

Air Force is favored by a touchdown, as Army has really struggled on defense and has been battling the injury bug.

Should we keep riding this service academy under train? Or is it time to get off and take a — gasp — over?

Air Force Falcons

The Falcons entered this season as one of the favorites to play in the Mountain West Conference championship, but with three losses in league games already, conference play has to feel like a disappointment.

Luckily, they have a chance to salvage the regular season in an emphatic way by beating Army (not that any sort of extra motivation is needed in these rivalry games).

Air Force is pretty clearly the best of the three academy outfits this season. The Falcons have experience in the backfield with quarterback Haaziq Daniels, who is in his third season piloting the triple-option attack. His wingmen are fullback Brad Roberts (943 rushing yards on the season) and slotback John Lee Eldridge (8.8 yards per carry), one of the most explosive runners in the country.

Daniels is a threat to pass, and while Air Force only does so on a limited basis, they are productive through the air. He is less of a running threat than his quarterback mates at Army and Navy, but he is the best passer of the three.

The Air Force offense has been slowed by Boise State and Navy, both great rush defenses. But against weaker defenses — such as the kind Army will be trotting out — the Falcons have been prolific. Air Force has scored over 40 points four times this season.

It’s difficult to build a great defense at an FBS service academy because you can’t consistently recruit the space-eaters in the middle, athletic freaks who can bend the edge and lockdown cornerbacks necessary for a dominant unit.

However, scheme, effort and discipline can go a long way and Air Force’s defense is squarely in the middle of the pack. They struggle against good passing attacks, which won’t matter this weekend, and don’t create much Havoc. They rate 59th in FBS in EPA against the run.

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Like Air Force, Army finds itself in an odd spot, as the Black Knights will need to win out to play in a bowl game. In addition, they will clinch retaining the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy with a win in this game.

Injuries have been the story of the season for Jeff Monken’s outfit. After opening the year with a two-quarterback rotation — Cade Ballard the better passer, and Tyhier Tyler the better rusher — Army has had to rely solely on the capable and experienced Jemel Jones with the first two out.

Slotback Tyrell Robinson was injured against Wake Forest and without his speed on the perimeter, the offense has focused on the inside attack with fullbacks Jakobi Buchanan and Tyson Riley. Those two have also missed time, although both logged double-digit carries in Army’s most recent game against UL-Monroe. 

The availability of Robinson and the quarterback rotation is still unknown for Saturday, but is trending in the right direction coming off a bye. With a full cast of characters, this offense will be just as dangerous as Air Force’s.

Army’s defense has been a disaster all season. The Black Knights are 119th in EPA/Pass (and 126th in EPA/Rush. They create very little Havoc and are 131st in ECKEL rate, a measure of how often teams create scoring opportunities. That number is dead last in FBS.

Air Force vs Army Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Air Force and Army match up statistically:

Air Force Offense vs Army Defense
Rush Success9130
Line Yards8130
Pass Success105111
Pass Blocking**74106
Finishing Drives1894
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Army Offense vs Air Force Defense
Rush Success1668
Line Yards636
Pass Success122126
Pass Blocking**129100
Finishing Drives35110
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling6592
PFF Coverage6375
SP+ Special Teams3963
Seconds per Play32.1 (130)30.1 (127)
Rush Rate88.8% (1)86.1% (2)
Data via (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.

Air Force vs Army Betting Pick

I’ve been thinking about this play for a few weeks and was happy to get the chance to write about it.

The record of service academies is undeniable and it’s more than just a trend or small sample size. It bears out so often because the teams are so familiar with each other’s option scheme, the clock is constantly running because of the rush rate and the possessions are limited.

But a trend isn’t going to work 100% of the time. Vegas has adjusted as this trend has become more mainstream — these lines were in the mid-50s as recently as 2017.

Both offenses have experience, bye weeks to get healthy and hold advantages over the defenses.

These offenses are ready to buck the trend and the defenses are ready to allow them to do so. If Army is healthy and can deploy multiple quarterbacks and Robinson, I’m ready to just say, “Screw it, let’s just do it and be legends” and take a service academy over — as long as I can get in below the key number of 41.

Pick: Over 40.5 or Better

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