College Football Odds, Picks, Predictions for Army vs. Ball State: Back Cadets as Road Favorites (Saturday, Oct. 2)

College Football Odds, Picks, Predictions for Army vs. Ball State: Back Cadets as Road Favorites (Saturday, Oct. 2) article feature image
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Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Christian Anderson.

  • The Army Black Knights take on the Ball State Cardinals in Saturday college football action.
  • The Black Knights enter as 10-point favorites on the road, and that's where Anthony Dabbundo sees betting value.
  • Check out Dabbundo's full betting breakdown below, complete with odds and picks for this matchup.

Army vs. Ball State Odds

Army Odds -10 (-112)
Ball State Odds +10 (-114)
Moneyline -420 / +320
Over/Under 48 (-108 / -113)
Time 5 p.m. ET
TV ESPN+
Odds via BetRivers. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Army and Ball State are both trending in opposite directions, as the Black Knights enter this game 4-0 off a win against another MAC opponent in Miami (OH).

They steamrolled UConn and Georgia State, escaped against Western Kentucky and appear headed toward a successful season and a bowl game appearance.

After winning the MAC in 2020, Ball State has started the ’21 campaign 1-3 with a close win against FCS foe Western Illinois, two blowout losses to Penn State and Wyoming on the road and a home loss to MAC rival Toledo in a game that was never in doubt for the Rockets.

Ball State’s defense is one of the worst in the country against the run and its offense has next to zero explosiveness to take advantage of the weaknesses in the Black Knights’ defense.

Given how Army won and covered last week without completing a pass against Miami, it won’t even need the pass in this game to maul a bad Cardinals front seven.

Army has taken some money since the open past a key number, but there’s still value betting on the Black Knights at the current number.


Army vs. Ball State Betting Preview

Saturday, October 2
5 p.m. ET
ESPN+

Army Black Knights

Army Offense

Handicapping the Army offense isn’t particularly difficult. The Black Knights are going to run the ball, run it often and run it well.

Army has the No. 1 rush rate in the entire country at 93.6% and ranks 19th in Rushing Success Rate and 31st in Offensive Line Yards.

The Black Knights’ ability to run the ball in short yardage and the red zone is what makes their offense work. They prevent negative plays really well (ranking second in Havoc) and finish drives at the third-best rate in the nation.

The Knights churn the clock and dominate time of possession by not being explosive or fast, but instead, efficient. It’s very hard to prepare for the triple option in a one-week setting, especially for a team like Ball State that is coming off a loss and will be more focused on upcoming MAC play.

This Army offense should be able to run all over a terrible Ball State run defense that could barely stop Toledo’s bad ground game.

The Black Knights are a brutal matchup if you can’t compete in the trenches and be disciplined to your gaps against the option. Ball State ranks low in tackling grade and 120th in Rushing Success Rate allowed.


Army Defense

Army’s defense has two major areas of weakness when you look at its statistical profile. Allowing Rushing Success and big plays have been an issue for Army early on in 2021, but Ball State isn’t really poised to exploit these weaknesses.

The Cardinals are a pass-first offense that ranks 104th in Rushing Success Rate and rates as below average in rushing rate overall.

The Army frontline doesn’t generate a ton of pressure and is prone to giving up big plays, which is a concern overall, but not against a Ball State offense that is 129th in big plays. Ball State took forever in its home game against Toledo last week to move the ball down the field and doesn’t have the special teams to kick long field goals.

The Black Knights rank 15th in Havoc, meaning they can be a bit of a boom-or-bust defense given their big play numbers. That could work against the Cardinals, who don’t really have the ability to sustain drives and can be vulnerable to Havoc offensively.


Ball State Cardinals

Ball State Offense

For a team that won its conference in a shortened 2020 season, Ball State’s offensive numbers in 2021 are really bad.

The Cardinals rank 104th in Rushing Success Rate and 112th in Passing Success Rate, which makes it hard for them to sustain drives and keep the chains moving.

But they also don’t produce any big plays (129th), meaning they’re just a bad offense. In three games against FBS teams this year, the Cardinals have tallied 37 points and that includes games against Wyoming and Toledo.

Ball State actually amassed almost 300 yards of offense against Penn State, but almost none of it came on the ground. The Cardinals generated few big plays and couldn’t convert yards into points.

Producing almost 300 yards against Wyoming in Week 2, Ball State only averaged 4.2 yards per attempt and 2.9 yards per rush. The Cardinals had their best rushing game of the year against an FBS opponent in Week 4 against Toledo at 3.5 yards per attempt.

An offense with little to no explosiveness is going to struggle against Army, especially given how methodical and slow the Black Knights will march down the field offensively.

A couple quick, unsuccessful drives for the Cardinals on offense could leave them with a worn down defense later in the game.


Ball State Defense

Ball State’s defense has one of the worst possible matchups it could have on Saturday as Army’s triple option comes to Muncie.

The Cardinals have offered almost no resistance to the rushing attack all season and that’s a recipe to get steamrolled for four quarters.

Ball State ranks 120th in Rushing Success Rate and 102nd in Line Yards and is  also very bad in both Stuff Rate and Power Success Rate, meaning the Cardinals won’t create negative plays or get stops on third or fourth down and short.

There’s nothing to suggest Ball State will be able to stop this rushing attack given how poorly they grade in Pro Football Focus tackling.

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Army vs. Ball State Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Army and Ball State match up statistically:

Army Offense vs. Ball State Defense

Offense

Defense

Edge

Rush Success 19 120
Line Yards 31 102
Pass Success 1 120
Pass Blocking** 44 110
Big Play 100 95
Havoc 2 120
Finishing Drives 3 81
**Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Ball State Offense vs. Army Defense

Offense

Defense

Edge

Rush Success 104 103
Line Yards 71 40
Pass Success 112 78
Pass Blocking** 55 98
Big Play 129 105
Havoc 53 15
Finishing Drives 86 82
**Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling 50 83
PFF Coverage 52 109
Middle 8 36 128
SP+ Special Teams 21 59
Plays per Minute 130 21
Rush Rate 93.6% (1) 49.8% (97)

Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.


Army vs. Ball State Betting Pick

This line opened at Army -6.5 and has taken a bunch of money to push it past the key number of 7 to where it sits as of Thursday afternoon at 7.5. Anything over eight becomes difficult to bet given how slow Army plays and how long it takes them to move down the field.

But the matchup advantage is so significant for Army’s offense against a terrible Ball State rush defense that the Black Knights should be able to wear down the Cardinals front.

Army’s strong Havoc-creating defense might even create enough turnovers and negative plays to make the field shorter for the Black Knights offense to move the ball.

I wouldn’t lay more than a full score in this game because of how service academies historically play low-event and low-variance games, but anything eight or lower is too cheap on the Black Knights.

Pick: Army -7.5 (-8 or better)

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