Stuckey’s Saturday Triple Option Mega Betting Guide
Russell Lansford, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Kadin Remsberg
As some of you know, I love looking for chances to fade the service academy schools (Army, Navy and Air Force) as favorites as much as I like betting them as underdogs.
Triple-option teams are what I like to call model breakers due to their unique style and brand of football. Three yard gains are productive, they go for it on fourth down a ton and have extremely long drives that can almost kill entire quarters.
These offenses don’t look efficient on paper, but they are in practice.
As a result of the limited possessions and rapidly running clock, it’s inherently more difficult for these teams to cover as favorites, especially as the spread gets larger. Plus, service academies haven’t transitioned from the triple option to a more modern passing attack like the rest of the country because they don’t get the same level of talent.
The triple option allows them to compete with superior teams, as we saw Army do the past two years against Oklahoma and Michigan, taking each to overtime on the road. It’s the great equalizer.
However, on the flip side, it naturally isn’t as effective of a scheme against inferior teams.
It’s those reasons that primarily explain why fading these schools as favorites has been so profitable in the past.
Simply fading the service academies as a favorites since 2005 has produced an ATS record of 147-113-5 (56.5%) for a healthy 9.8% ROI. And the picture is even rosier if you only faded them as double digit favorites: 70-48-2 (59.3%), ROI 14.6%
Well, this week, all three are favorites, including one by double digits. Let’s take a look at which ones I’ll be fading. And as a bonus, we’ll also look at the other triple-option team in action today: Georgia Southern as a 14.5 point favorite against New Mexico State.
And even if you don’t wager on any of these four games this weekend, I promise you will come away with a number of nuggets that will make you smarter when betting college football games involving triple-option teams in the future.
Odds as of Friday night and via PointsBet, where Action Network users can access an exclusive promotion to get a 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150).
Army vs. San Jose State
- Spread: Army -10
- Over/Under: 54.5
- Location: West Point, N.Y.
- Time: Noon ET
- TV: CBSSN
Army is the poster child for everything I described above — more than any other service academy by far. The Black Knights will shatter your model.
Historically, Army is the worst favorite in college football with a shockingly bad ROI of just under -30%.
A $100 bettor would be down close to $1,800 by backing Army as a favorite in every game since 2005. And the numbers are even worse if you go back further than our Bet Labs database.
Also, San Jose State will be looking to avenge a 52-3 home loss to Army last year. That final score is a bit worrying on the surface but SJSU was decimated by injuries last year and didn’t even have starting QB Josh Love for that game. The Spartans also faced Air Force earlier this year, so seeing the option twice in the past calendar year.
Familiarity helps a ton facing such a unique offense. Not surprisingly, teams facing an option team for the second time in one season have hit at a 56% clip over the past 25 years.
Now, in regards to this particular matchup, this Army defense has taken a step back from last year, dropping almost 5% in success rate. I think the Black Knights sorely miss defensive coordinator Jay Bateman, who departed for North Carolina in the offseason. Love and company should be able to move the ball through the air against Army. They should also have confidence going into West Point after beating Arkansas earlier this year as a three-touchdown underdog on the road.
Something has also been off with the Army offense as well. Following the theme above, it struggled mightily as a favorite in three games this year against Rice, Western Kentucky and Georgia State. The Black Knights only averaged a touch over 14 points in those games and dropped two of three. They did cover as a favorite against lowly UTSA but only as the result of a late missed extra point.
The San Jose State defense is nothing to write home about but the Spartans do feature a strong group of linebackers and run-stopping safeties. However, the problem is the status of two of their linebackers, Ethan Aguayo and Jesse Osuna, is up in the air. Trying to get an update on either is close to impossible.
Me trying to find updates on if a San Jose State linebacker will play pic.twitter.com/2v8hxblk0W
— Stuckey (@Stuckey2) October 26, 2019
The absence of Aguayo would be especially troubling as the senior linebacker led the team in tackles last year and actually leads the nation in tackles per game this year; he had 20 tackles in the season opener.
I played SJSU +10.5 earlier in the week almost as an auto fade of Army as a double digit favorite. But I will admit the status of the SJSU linebackers is a huge concern.
Georgia Southern vs. New Mexico State
- Spread: Georgia Southern -14
- Over/Under: 55.5
- Location: Statesboro, Ga.
- Time: 3 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPN3
This is the hold your nose special of the group.
Trust me, I don’t enjoy putting my hard earned money on 0-7 New Mexico State, either.
However, if there was ever a spot to back the Aggies, this is it.
This is a potentially flat spot for Georgia Southern., which made the transition to FBS in 2014 after a long and successful FCS stint with six claimed national titles. Not only are the Eagles coming off of a thrilling conference win over Coastal Carolina in triple overtime, they have a date with ranked Appalachian State on national television on a short week this upcoming Thursday.
On the flip side, New Mexico State is still searching for its first win and is coming off a bye, which will certainly help with preparation for the triple option.
Just take a look at the ATS splits since 2005 for teams with 10 or more days to prepare for Air Force, Navy, Army and Georgia Southern:
- Overall: 51-35-4 (59.3%) for a 14.4% ROI
- As an underdog: 30-17-1 (63.8) for a 22.2% ROI
And New Mexico State certainly needs the preparation as it’s allowing 6.1 yards per rush, which ranks 129th in the country — only UMass has allowed a higher rushing average. But in fairness, all of the NMSU defensive splits are skewed by an absolutely vicious early season schedule against Alabama, Washington State and San Diego State. This team should benefit tremendously from the bye and should come out with a completely desperate effort in search of that elusive first win.
Plus, this isn’t your older brother’s machine-like Georgia Southern triple option. It’s been a struggle on the ground throughout the year as a result of turnover and injuries along the offensive line. The Eagles OL ranks 110th in Line Yards (a measure of the offensive line’s run blocking effectiveness), per Football Outsiders.
Look, this isn’t pretty at all. New Mexico State has one of the worst defensive lines in all of college football, ranking in the bottom five nationally in almost every single possible advanced metric. It’s ugly but so is this Georgia Southern offense, which is one of the 10 worst in the country by most metrics. Plus, the situational spot is fantastic.
I grabbed +14.5 earlier in the week but would still play +14 — although nothing less, especially considering wind could come into play and that would hurt NMSU more. We’re going to need every point we can get while holding our noses.
Navy vs. Tulane
- Spread: Navy -3.5
- Over/Under: 58
- Location: Annapolis, Mary.
- Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
- TV: CBSSN
Navy is legit, people. Maybe the most improved team in the nation from a season ago. Not only do they lead the nation in rush yards per game at 345 (next closest is Air Force at 305) but its defense has made an enormous jump. The defensive line has been amazing and the new aggressive style has paid dividends from the opening kick of the season.
But…so is Tulane, despite getting embarrassed last week at Memphis.
I have the Green Wave rated a point better than Navy so anything over three is certainly intriguing, especially considering Tulane’s history against the option.
I just mentioned Georgia Southern — a pure triple-option team that recently transitioned from FCS. Well, guess who once coached there? Tulane head man Willie Fritz, who actually implemented a version of the option for the first time way back in 1993 at Blinn College. The entire Tulane staff has a ton of familiarity with the option.
Plus, Tulane ran a version of the option over the past few years. It was more of a spread option with zone blocking, but some of the principles are the same, so many of its defenders have practiced against it.
More importantly, Tulane has faced the triple option a few times in recent years and have fared well.
- Won at Army earlier this year, ending Army’s long home winning streak
- Beat Navy last year, holding them to only 117 rushing yards
- Lost by 2 at Navy in 2017, holding the Midshipmen to under 200 yards on the ground
That experience is invaluable. The strength of this Tulane defense is the front 7, although they do struggle to generate pressure but that won’t hurt against Navy.
In a matchup of two teams that rank in the top 10 in rush yards per carry, Tulane’s experience in defending the option and explosive receivers on the outside may be the difference. I will most likely be on Tulane, especially if I can get +4, but I respect the hell out of this Navy team.
The AAC is tremendous this year and this game should be as well in what will basically serve as an elimination game in the West.
Air Force vs. Utah State
- Spread: Air Force -3.5
- Over/Under: 58.5
- Location: Colorado Springs, Colo.
- Time: 10:15 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPN2
Can we make it 4 for 4 in fade recommendations of triple option teams? You bet.
I’ve loved this Air Force team since the summer, especially in the trenches on both sides of the ball. However, this is not a great matchup for the Falcons, who are making a trip back from Hawaii after a victory last weekend.
Why is this a bad matchup? Two primary reasons:
- Utah State has a solid run defense. The Aggies are only allowing 3.2 yards per carry, which ranks in the top 25 nationally. They are led by junior linebacker David Woodward, who ranks second in the country in tackles per game (13.7).
- The Aggies also feature an excellent quarterback in Jordan Love, who some say has NFL potential. He’s had a fairly disappointing start to this season but he has the talent and weapons to pick apart a very vulnerable Air Force secondary.
Utah State’s All-American linebacker, David Woodward, is among the top tacklers in the country.
The junior is currently on pace for 178 tackles which would break the single-season USU tackle record of 170 set by Tony D’Amato in 1998. pic.twitter.com/TKpZQ42nup
— The Statesman Sports Desk (@StatesmanSports) October 22, 2019
When these two teams met last year, Utah State won 42-32, holding Air Force to 3.8 yards per carry, while throwing for over 350. Air Force should dominate the time of possession against the speedy Aggies but this game is a complete toss up in my book.
And considering the matchups in favor of Utah State on both sides of the ball, I bet the road dog at +3.5 and would take anything at a field goal or better.