Navy vs. Army Betting Odds & Picks: Will the Under Hit for the 15th Consecutive Year?
Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images.
- The Army-Navy game is back, along with its longstanding over/under trend that has driven the game total down to a shockingly low 36 points as of Saturday afternoon.
- The under has hit in 14 straight years of this service academy matchup, forcing sportsbooks to adjust the opening line throughout the years.
- Stuckey breaks down whether or not that trend can continue below and offers his betting angles for the long-awaited Navy vs. Army matchup.
Navy vs. Army Odds
|Navy Odds||+7.5 [BET NOW]|
|Army Odds||-7.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||+225/-285 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||36 [BET NOW]|
|Time||3 p.m. ET|
It’s going to be odd to have the Army-Navy game mixed in with a full Saturday slate, but this historic rivalry will at least get the prime 3:30 ET afternoon slot on CBS. These two teams first met way back in 1890 and have played in all but 10 seasons since. If you’re curious, these are the 10 years they didn’t meet since that first meeting 140 years ago:
- They didn’t play between 1894-98 after an alleged dispute between a Navy Admiral and Army General almost ended in a duel after the 1893 game. That’s just one story. Others have actually stated the government had concerns over betting. Oh, how times have changed.
- 1909 due to the death of an Army player
- World War I resulted in cancellations in both 1917 and 1918
- In both 1928 and 1929, the teams couldn’t agree on eligibility standards
Since 1930, they’ve managed to meet every year through many major world events, such as 9/11, the Vietnam War and the assassination of JFK.
Navy leads the all-time series with a 62-51-7 record. The Midshipmen won 14 in a row between 2002-15 before Army snapped the drought in 2016. That victory marked a run of three consecutive victories for the Black Knights before Navy came out on top last year.
This year, the game will not be played on a neutral field for the first time since 1943 when the teams met in West Point, where they will meet once again for an Army home game. Only 15,000 people attended that game as a result of a 10-mile rule implemented by President Franklin Roosevelt, who didn’t want to interrupt the train system during World War II.
This time around, there will be no fans, but students from each academy can attend instead. College GameDay will be there, and President Donald Trump is also expected to make an appearance.
Let’s take a closer look at each team, then dive into where I see potential betting value in the 121st meeting of this storied rivalry.
Three different starting quarterbacks (and five in total) have failed to get the offense going. Freshman Xavier Arline is the latest to give it a shot. At least two quarterbacks have played in seven of their nine games.
The defense, led by star linebacker Diego Fagot, has played much better the past two games, as the Midshipmen shut down both Tulsa and Memphis, holding them to under 20 points. Defensive coordinator Brian Newberry has seemingly found some solutions on that side of the ball during a month-long break Navy had prior to the Memphis game due to cancellations.
The defense has recently looked like the stout unit we saw last season as opposed to the one that got carved up in its first seven games, which contributed to Navy’s poor rush defense numbers. For the season, the Midshipmen are allowing 5.3 yards per carry, which ranks a troubling 115th in FBS.
Newberry does at least have a lot of experience with defending the option, which was one of the reasons Navy brought him in from a Kennesaw State program that also runs the same offense.
Last year, Navy held Army to just 123 yards on the ground on 47 attempts. However, it’s worth noting that Air Force absolutely carved up Navy on the ground earlier this year, rushing for just under 400 yards at 7.0 yards a pop.
That said, the defense has apparently figured out some things over a long break in November, the offense remains stuck in the mud. Navy scored only 13 total points in its two most recent losses. And for the season, it’s only averaging 3.7 yards per rush, which ranks 96th in the country.
You have to go all the way back to 2001 to find the last time Navy averaged under 4.0 yards per carry for a season. And you’ll usually find them in the top 10 nationally in that category. It’s also a shocking drop from last year’s team that averaged 6.1 per carry, which ranked fourth nationally.
So, what’s wrong? Well, the offensive line hasn’t been great for a unit that Navy has continued to shuffle around for a solution to no avail. The offensive line ranks 107th in Line Yards and 111th Opportunity Rate, per Football Outsiders.
Most importantly, the production from the quarterback position and slotback has been severely lacking. The Midshipmen sorely miss quarterback Malcolm Perry (now with the Miami Dolphins), who set the NCAA record for most rushing yards by a quarterback last season.
Their only reliable running game has been up the middle with the fullback dive with Nelson Smith and Jamale Carothers.. Those two have averaged 4.7 yards per carry, while the quarterbacks and slotbacks have combined to average a paltry 2.9 yards per rush. They are especially getting nothing on the perimeter from their quarterbacks, who averaged just 1.45 yards per attempt. The lack of outside threat makes the triple option so much easier to defend.
Army Black Knights
Army comes into this game with a 7-2 record but has certainly benefited from one of the nation’s easiest schedules. Look no further than the list of seven teams the Black Knights have defeated this year:
- Middle Tennessee State
- Louisiana Monroe
- Abilene Christian
- The Citadel
- Georgia Southern
That’s three FCS schools and three FBS schools I have ranked outside the top 100. The Black Knights’ only top-100 win came in a comeback effort by a point over Georgia Southern. They suffered their losses against Cincinnati and Tulane.
Army has used six different quarterbacks but has found much more success running the ball in 2020. The offensive line play has been fairly reliable. The Black Knights rank 13th in Power Success Rate and 23rd in Stuff Rate, so they’re certainly getting a push in key short-yardage situations that triple-option offenses rely on.
For the year, Army is averaging 5.0 yards per carry, which ranks 30th in the nation. However, as I mentioned above, the Black Knights have benefited from an extremely easy schedule. Against the three competent defenses they’ve faced in Tulane, Georgia Southern and Cincinnati, they averaged only 4.0 yards per rush. After adjusting for the opponent, this offense grades out as a below-average unit.
The strength of this Army team has been the defense, which I have graded as an above-average unit. Against those three aforementioned competent opponents, it held its own for the most part.
The defensive line also boasts some very promising numbers that you want to focus on when going up against a triple-option attack. The unit ranks seventh in Line Yards, sixth in Opportunity Rate and 15th Stuff Rate.
Betting Analysis & Pick
When you talk about betting the Army-Navy game, you have to start with the total since the under is 14-1 since 2005, per our Bet Labs database. In fact, the under has hit 14 consecutive years in this rivalry.
Why might that be the case? Well, these two triple-option offenses will always be among the most run-heavy teams in the country, which means the clock is running throughout the game. And when two triple-option teams face each other, the defenses have plenty of familiarity with dealing with this unique offensive scheme since they see it every day in practice. Therefore, they understand the assignments and have the discipline required to contain an option attack.
The academies are also model breakers, which is why I think the market struggles to set their totals that you usually see drop precipitously from the open. You can’t model triple-option offenses like you do other offenses, since success should be measured differently.
Gaining three yards on first down is fine for a triple-option team that will also go for it at a very high clip on fourth-and-1, no matter where it sits on the field.
Let’s take a look at some of the data since 2005:
- Average over/under: 49.2
- Average points scored: 37.4
- If every one of the totals were set at 40, the under still would’ve gone 9-5-1.
- However, at 38, which is where it currently sits, unders would’ve gone only 6-6-3
Now, as you can see from the chart above, oddsmakers are getting smarter about setting the over/under for this game, especially on the open. That’s an important point because it’s applicable to other betting trends you might hear about. Even if there is something to a specific trend, the market will usually price away any edge over time.
Yet, from a pure numbers perspective, I did see value in this under. I set this total at 36, so I grabbed under 40.5 earlier in the week. I’d still bet under 38 smaller but would not go any lower than that.
Keep in mind that when playing a total this low, all it takes is a fluke turnover or two (or a defensive touchdown) to blow it up. It won’t be easy to get to the window. Navy could also decide to go to Dalen Morris at quarterback and come out with a more pass-heavy attack featuring the pro-style quarterback. Needless to say, that would be disastrous for the under.
The Navy triple option is simply broken this year. You basically just have to take away the fullback dive, which Army is more than capable of doing. I also haven’t been overly impressed with the Army offense against the better teams it has faced this year. Navy’s defense, which is trending positively and very familiar with the triple-option, can hold its own here.
In regard to the side, I make it close to where the spread currently sits at Army -7. The Black Knights will benefit from playing at home, and they come in as the much more rested team, having not played since Nov. 21. I have no interest in backing either side in a game in which you can throw the records out most years (seven of the past nine have been decided by one possession).
I’m simply betting the under in what I think will be a race to 20 if we can avoid defensive scores and fluke turnovers. Let’s hope we get the 15th straight under, because with the way the market has been trending, this might be the last time I play an Army-Navy under for quite some time.
Pick: Under 38.