College Football Betting Odds, Pick for Air Force vs. Navy: Why Riding the Falcons is the Answer (Sept. 11)
Dustin Satloff/Getty Images. Pictured: Haaziq Daniels.
Air Force vs. Navy Odds
|Air Force Odds|
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
It didn't take long to get the first matchup of service academies this season, and to the shock of no one, we're dealing with a total just barely above 40.
Navy has some serious question marks going forward, considering last week's blowout loss to Marshall after an abysmal 2020 season. Air Force, meanwhile, is coming off a very impressive offensive performance last year, albeit in just six games, and looks to be trending in a different direction than the Midshipmen.
Still, though, Air Force has some question marks of its own, which makes this a fun game to analyze heading into the weekend.
There's no question about it: This Air Force offense was the strength of the team in 2020 and should continue to be in 2021.
The Falcons obviously lean on the run in their option-based offense and were incredible at it last season, ranking second in the nation in rushing success rate.
The offensive line was dominant, as well, as it led the nation in both stuff rate and line yards last season. It lost several pieces from that group, but returns several veteran players who have seen playing time through the years.
In fact, four of five of Air Force's starting offensive linemen are seniors. It will be tough to replicate last season's performance up front, but the Falcons have a very strong track record when it comes to their offensive line.
At quarterback, Air Force returns Haaziq Daniels, who is entering his second year as a starter. Triple-option quarterbacks are typically just runners, but what separates Air Force from similar offenses is that it actually has had an efficient passing offense in recent years.
Daniels averaged nine passes per game last season, and the Air Force offense ranked 13th nationally in passing success rate and ninth in yards per attempt. Opposing coaches have commented on how hard it is to defend Air Force's offense now that it has a real passing threat.
Top rusher Brandon Lewis is back for the Falcons after ranking third in the Mountain West in Pro Football Focus' rushing grade last season, when he averaged 7.2 yards per carry. Wide receiver/running back Brandon Lewis should also feature prominently, as he was third on the team in both rushing yards and receiving yards in 2020.
Finally, keep an eye out for Micah Davis, who totaled 128 yards and two touchdowns on just six touches against Louisiana last week.
Navy isn't scaring anyone through the air, so the key for this Air Force defense is how it defends the run game.
You can't base the handicap on this game based on last year's matchup between these two, but holding Navy to just 2.5 yards per carry and seven total points was very impressive from this defensive front.
In total, Air Force's defense ranked 24th in expected points added per rush and gets some very important players back after some opted out of last season. That includes linebacker Demonte Meeks, who led the team in snaps and PFF tackling grade in 2019, as well as Jordan Jackson and Lakota Wills, who were the team's starters on the edge in 2019.
Almost everyone in the country returns a significant amount of production, but Air Force's defense even returns several key pieces that it didn't even have last year. A veteran-laden group should be more than ready for Navy's offense.
There aren't many positive things to be said about this Navy offense.
It was abysmal in 2020 and that continued in Week 1, with a 38% success rate in a 49-7 blowout loss to Marshall. Before the game got to garbage time, Navy's success rate was just 32%. This was just a continuation of Navy's terrible offense last season, which ranked in the bottom 10 nationally in success rate and points per drive.
Up front, Navy could have issues with this Air Force defense. It ranked 114th in line yards last season, which is a major problem for a triple-option offense. The run blocking received just a 56.9 grade against Marshall, which is a disappointing result for anyone hoping for improvement from this group.
It's been said that service academy defenses are better prepared to defend the run since they face so often in practice.
That wasn't the case with Navy last year in any sense, as it had the fourth-worst PFF run defense grade in the country. This group definitely struggled against Air Force's ground game last season, allowing seven yards per carry and 369 rushing yards.
In coverage, Navy's 32.7 grade last week was the second worst in the nation. It allowed Grant Wells and Marshall's passing attack to go for 10.7 yards per attempt, a very proficient 0.333 EPA per throw, and 11 explosive passes on just 34 attempts. It was completely dominated, and Air Force is very efficient when it does decide to go to the air.
Expect the Falcons to be able to dial up some shots in the passing game against this extremely suspect defense.
Air Force vs. Navy Matchup Analysis
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Air Force Offense vs. Navy Defense
Navy Offense vs. Air Force Defense
Pace of Play / Other
Air Force vs. Navy Betting Pick
This line has held pretty steady since opening at -6 on Sunday. Some -5.5 popped up over the course of the week, but those have mostly vanished as of the time of this writing.
Personally, I took Air Force here, and it's been disappointing to not see any closing line value so far. I have the game projected as Air Force -8.4, so I still see value on the Falcons here.
Matchups against two service academies are a unique handicap compared to standard games, but Air Force looks to have a significant advantage here. This Navy team has extremely concerning weaknesses that the Falcons should be able to exploit in this one, and I like them to cover this number despite the very low total.