Army-Navy Betting Guide: Will Game Come Down to … Army’s Passing Attack?
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Malcolm Perry
Army-Navy Betting Guide
- Odds: Army -7
- Over/Under: 40
- Time: 3 p.m. ET
- TV: CBS
>> All odds as of Friday morning. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NCAAF odds and track your bets.
The college football regular season has one game left — the 119th meeting between Army and Navy, a rivalry that’s been played every year since 1930. More important than that, though, is that the past 12 meetings have gone under the betting total.
After losing 14 straight in the series, Army will actually defend a two-game winning streak in Philadelphia on Saturday. Navy leads the all-time series 60-51-7. While Army has the Armed Force Bowl vs. Houston left after Saturday, this is Navy’s finale.
This is the biggest favorite Army has been in this game since 1991, and the first time its been favored at all since 2001.
Market Moves for Army-Navy
By Danny Donahue
This point spread has seen both sides of a touchdown since opening, as Army has gone back and forth between a 6.5- and 7.5-point favorite. Seventy-four percent of bettors accounting for 72% of dollars have laid the points with the two-loss Black Knights, but that support hasn’t been enough to move their line significantly past -7.
The over/under has been the more interesting story in the betting market, as always in this game.
Any sportsbooks that released a total early saw their number plummet thanks to heavy support of the under. Some opened as high as 52.5, but behind 64% of bets and 78% of dollars, the market consensus is now down to just 40.
Mismatch: Third Down Defense
Per S&P+, Army’s defense ranks No. 1 in the nation in third down success rate, while Navy’s defense ranks 98th. That stat could play a huge role in a game where both teams figure to face plenty of third and shorts. Both offenses rank in the top 20 in percentages of third downs from short yardage situations.
Key Metric: Army’s … Passing Offense?
Navy has one of the worst pass defenses in the country, ranking in the bottom five nationally in the following categories:
- Passing efficiency
- Sack Rate
- Completion percentage
Normally, that wouldn’t mean much against Army, but the Black Knights actually have a passing offense this year. In fact, Army ranks third overall in Passing S&P+, including top seven ranks in efficiency, explosiveness and sack rate.
Kelvin Hopkins has a solid arm, which Army hasn’t been able to say about its quarterback most years. He finished the year 44-of-81 for 895 yards with 6 TDs and 3 INTs.
Those might not sounds like much, but this is an Army team that has thrown 41 touchdowns and 41 interceptions over the past seven seasons. To put that into perspective, Army won 10 games last year with 20 total completions — eight of which came in one game.
Hopkins averages 11.05 yards per attempt on the season, trailing only Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray for the nation’s lead.
Hopkins has a good shot at becoming the first Army QB to throw for 1,000 yards in a season since Carson Williams in 2007. Don’t sleep on the Army passing game on Saturday.
Navy might also go to the air more often than usual after throwing for over 200 yards against Tulane in its last game. I actually think the total has reached the point where there is now value in the over.
Army-Navy Totals, a Brief History
The under has gone 32-8-1 in games featuring two service academies (Army, Navy, Air Force) since 2005. That’s an absurd 80% clip and 54.7% ROI. Even more impressive is the fact that the under has hit by an average of 7.72 points per game. This trend is 14-1 since the Army-Navy game in 2013.
The under is also 12-0 in the past 12 Army-Navy games.
This trend makes sense, as not only do these teams run the ball as much any team in the country (Army ranks in the top-two in run rate on both Standard and Passing Downs, while Navy ranks in the top-three in both), they also practice against the option all year long — so they have the familiarity of facing this unique offense.
But will it continue this year?
Key Numbers When Betting This Game
By Steve Petrella
Given the nature of their triple-option offenses, Army and Navy tend to go for it on fourth down more often than almost anyone in the country. They find themselves in fourth-and-short situations often, and feel good about their chances to convert.
Since 2011, both teams have ranked top-15 in “never kick rate” — the percentage of times they go for it instead of punting or kicking a field goal — every year.
That’s led to fewer field goals and as a result, more “normal” scores. There have only been eight field goals in this game in the past five years, and no game has had more than two.
The most common total points in the 57 Army-Navy-Air Force games since 2000 — 51, 42, 40, 38, which have all happened four times. Those are all results likely involving mostly touchdowns and just one or two field goals.
So if you’re looking to bet this under (or over), be cautious of these key numbers, which happen more often relative to all college football games. Even if you’re looking to bet a side, look for Army -6.5 or Navy +7.5.
Bet to Watch
By Collin Wilson
As our totals analysis mentioned, both of these teams rank in the top three in standard and passing downs run rate. At some point, each team will try to lure all 11 defenders in the box for a throw over the top, and that would favor Army quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr.
Hopkins has the most yards per completion, completion rate, sack rate, and marginal efficiency of any quarterback on either team.
Of course, this game is not about the pass. It’s about stopping the triple-option run.
When looking at advanced stats, it is important to note that Navy has faced a much tougher schedule, with an S&P+ ranking of 39th against Army’s 98th.
While the Black Knights faced six opponents that are in the MAC, FCS, or transitioning from FCS, the Midshipmen covered the spread against Notre Dame and Central Florida.
The numbers for Navy against the rush are not pretty, ranking 93rd in S&P+ rush defense with a stuff rate of 109th. But there has been improvement against the run since a 42-0 loss to Cincinnati.
The Bearcats had a 63% success rate (the amount of yards needed to keep a team “on schedule” to pick up a first down) on the ground in that game, and since the Midshipmen have improved on rush defense to allow Central Florida at 48%, Tulsa at 50%, and Tulane at 39%.
Navy has lost the past two games in this series by allowing Army to rush for 53% and 65% success rates.
Third down conversion rate will be the most critical statistic in this game, as Army ranks 130th in the nation in moving the sticks on first and second down.
Oddly enough, Army also ranks first in FBS in third-down conversions at 57.1%. Navy ranks near the bottom of the FBS, allowing 47.6% of third downs converted. On the other side of the ball, the Army defense is first in the nation allowing third downs converted at 27.2%.
While the stats point to Army owning third down on each side of the ball, there are other statistics that favor of Navy.
The Middies are second in the nation in penalty yards, being flagged for an average of 30 yards per game. Navy is top five in red-zone points per attempt and scoring percentage. The Midshipmen also rank No. 6 in success rate past the 10-yard line.
Collin’s Pick: The Action Network power ratings make this game Army -6.5, and I would wager accordingly by taking Navy +7 or better.
I’ll also look for an Army moneyline live at a reasonable price if the Knights fall behind.
Bonus Prop Bet
By Collin Wilson
Looking for a bonus prop bet? I have cashed a “Longest Touchdown” prop in this game over the past three years. Many bettors get wrapped up into the low total and lack of points looking for the under on any offensive props.
In the past three years, we have had a Malcolm Perry 68-yard scamper, a Zach Abey 41-yard scuttle, and a Keenan Reynolds 58-yard whisk to hit the over on this prop. Two of those players will be in this year’s game.
I played the Over 42 for this prop on Saturday morning.
Trends to Know
By John Ewing
Army averages 303.0 rushing yards per game (No. 2) while Navy has rushed for 288.9 yards per game (No. 3).
Teams that run the ball well can extend drives, which keeps the clock running and tends to produce lower scoring games.
In games between two teams averaging at least 215 yards per game, the under has gone 237-187-7 (56%) since 2005, per our Bet Labs data.
By Evan Abrams
Under head coach Jeff Monken, who has been with the Knights since 2014, Army has had ATS success against good rushing opponents.
The problem Army has had is covering the spread in these spots against inferior opponents (Navy is 3-9 overall):
- 150+ rushing YPG: 17-12-2 ATS (3-7 ATS vs. under .500 SU)
- 200+ rushing YPG: 10-7-1 ATS (0-4 ATS vs. under .500 SU)
- 250+ rushing YPG: 6-3 ATS