Why Hasn’t the Navy vs. Air Force Total Dropped Like Usual?

Oct 05, 2019 07:20 AM EDT
Credit:

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Donald Hammond III

  • The Navy-Air Force total hasn't dropped much from the consensus opener of 45.
  • Service academy unders have gone 33-8-1 since 2005, and usually see big line movement, so why is this game different?

We’ve beaten the drum here plenty — when any two of Army, Navy and Air Force meet, the games go under. That’s been true even against the closing totals, which are often much worse numbers because the lines plummet.

The under is 33-8-1 between service academy teams since 2005 thanks in large part to their triple-option offenses and familiarity with that attack.

But for this week’s Air Force-Navy game, we haven’t seen much movement on the over/under, which sits at 45. It’s stayed put from the consensus openers across the market of 44.5/45 (Circa in Las Vegas opened at 52, but that wasn’t available to most bettors).

The lack of movement is uncharacteristic. Over the past four seasons, totals in these games have dropped 2.4 points on average.

So what does it mean? Probably that the betting market doesn’t see this under as the slam-dunk you’d expect. And when the line doesn’t move much or goes up, the under hasn’t been as strong a play.

Each of the eight service academy games that went over in the last 15 years have had the total rise or just drop 1 point. The under is still 16-8 in those scenarios, but it’s 17-0-1 when the total drops 1.5 points or more. And remember, that’s all against the closing number.

 

Diagnosing Possible Reasons

The first and most obvious reason is that the line is correct. Books have routinely opened service academy totals in the high 40’s and 50’s, only to see them come crashing down and finish way under.

The 45 out there now would be the tied for the eighth-lowest closing total of the 41 games in the Bet Labs database.

The second is that both Navy and Air Force’s offenses have been awesome this season. Both rank 13th or better in points per possession (though they don’t have the ball that many times because of the clock-draining triple option) and 40th or better in yards per play differential.

It’s definitely not because either team has started throwing the ball, though — each is averaging 10 pass attempts or fewer per game, right in line with last season’s averages.

Keep an eye on where this line moves (you can set a line watcher in The Action Network app), because I’d start to get a little nervous for under bettors if it ticks up.

The last time a service academy total rose at least a point was 2017, when Navy beat Air Force 48-45.

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