Stuckey’s Army vs. UTSA Betting Preview & Odds: Back the Black Knights as Big Favorites?
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Army Black Knights head coach Jeff Monken speaks to his players on the sideline.
Army at UTSA Betting Odds
- Odds: Army -17
- Over/Under: 45
- Time: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
- TV: NFL Network
After breaking my own service academy betting rule of thumb last week by fading Army, I won’t make that mistake again this week.
That does mean we’ll be fading Army again but this time as a double-digit favorite. Fading the three service academy schools (Army, Navy and Air Force) as favorites has been profitable, especially when favored by 10 or more.
In fact, only Florida State and Notre Dame have been less profitable as favorites over the past 15 years. A $100 bettor would be down -$1,561 if they backed the Black Knights in the 56 games they’ve been favored in since 2005.
And this isn’t just some random trend without merit. It actually has logic.
All three teams run the triple-option on offense, which means they limit possessions and bleed the clock. That makes it much more difficult to cover a large spread.
The trend has held true so far this season with Army, which barely won at Rice (14-7) as three-touchdown favorites and then almost pulled off the upset at Michigan as three-touchdown underdogs.
One could argue that Army might be susceptible to an emotional letdown after a heartbreaking loss in Ann Arbor. That could potentially lead to the Black Knights coming out a little flat, giving UTSA an edge early on.
However, while I do like to factor in situational angles into my handicapping, it’s rare for me to consider them with the service academy schools, which tend to show up each week with the same intensity.
Look no further than last year as a perfect example. After Army came up just shy in overtime on the road at Oklahoma as 30-point underdogs (sound familiar?) — it turned around the following week and stomped Buffalo 42-13 (as 7.5-point underdogs).
Maybe they come out flat this time around, but I’m not banking on it.
Can UTSA Slow Army Down?
As I did in the betting preview I wrote about backing Rice in Week 1, let’s get this out of the way: UTSA is not good. The Roadrunners sit in my bottom-five nationally along with a few of their Conference USA foes.
But similar to Rice, there are reasons to believe UTSA can slow down Army’s vaunted rushing attack.
Last season, UTSA had an absolutely abysmal pass defense, which should be the case again in 2019. But that won’t matter against Army. One of UTSA’s few strengths is its rush defense. The Roadrunners allowed 4.1 yards per rush last season, which ranked a respectable 56th in the country.
More importantly, their defense finished 23rd and 37th in Opportunity Rate and Stuff Rate, respectively, per S&P. Those are two extremely important measures when evaluating whether or not a defense has a shot at slowing down an option, particularly in short yardage situations, which Army will have in abundance.
UTSA brings back almost its entire defensive line that helped accumulate those stats, so they’ll help on Saturday. And while UTSA hasn’t faced the option recently, it does have a defensive staff with plenty of experience scheming against it.
Bet to Watch
Expect an inspired effort from UTSA’s defense after missing more than 30 tackles against Baylor in a blowout loss last week. This run defense showed last season it’s capable of slowing down opposing rush offenses.
While the offense is wretched, they have some talent that could potentially break a few plays on the outside. And UTSA will certainly have an edge in the special teams department, which helps.
Ultimately, it’s just really difficult for Army to cover this large of a spread given its style of play. Hold your nose and root for the clock, which should be flying. Meep Meep!
(And, yes, this game is really on NFL Network.)