Usually when the United States military takes to the battlefield it is against a common opponent. But during the annual Army-Navy game, there is some good-spirited friendly fire between the two branches.
The Black Knights are looking to build momentum heading into bowl season, while Navy is looking to just finish the season strong after an uncharacteristically disappointing campaign.
Army is a 6.5-point favorite against Navy at BetOnline, as the two teams look to close their regular season out with a win in what amounts to their Super Bowl each year.
Army is the second worst passing team in college football, averaging just 81.4 yards per game through the air. And given that they both run triple-option offenses, it isn’t hard to figure out that Navy is just below them in that category. But the strength of both offenses is their ability to move the football with the run, and Army has been better at that.
The Black Knights are second only to Georgia Tech in rushing yardage on the season, averaging 303 yards per game with their ground attack, which is appropriate given what branch of the military they are. Not only do they possess an option-oriented offense that can keep defenses off-balance, but they also have a great offensive line this year capable of winning at the line of scrimmage on the majority of their plays.
Army scores 30.8 points per game, putting them in a tie for 53rd in the nation in that category. You could look at that and be unimpressed, given that there are plenty of teams in the sport who score more points. But with Army playing at such a slow pace by running the ball as much as they do, the fact that they are able to consistently score in the 30s is something of an impressive achievement.
The Black Knights boast a top-20 scoring defense in the country, allowing just 17.8 points per game to their opponents. They are also 12th in the country in rushing yardage allowed, giving up 106.5 yards per game on the ground. Against Navy’s run-heavy offense, they will almost certainly give up more yardage than that, but games aren’t won with yards, and Army’s offense has shown that they can keep a wide variety of offenses off of the scoreboard.
Army would be motivated for this game no matter what was on the line for them, as playing Navy is their biggest rival. But with the Commander In Chief’s Trophy on the line, there is the double motivation of being able to say that you beat both Navy and Air Force in the same season. And with positioning for bowl season on the line as well, the Black Knights should be at their absolute best here.
Navy Week 15 Analysis
Navy has the third best running game in all of college football, putting up 288.9 yards per game on the ground. They make it known, just like Army, that they are going to run the ball early and often. The question becomes whether or not other teams can stop them, to which the answer has been yes more often than not this year. Navy has averaged five yards per carry on the season, which is actually better than Army’s average of 4.7 yards per carry,
The scoring output for Navy is worse than Army’s this year as well, with the team putting up 26.3 points per game. That puts them into a tie with lowly Oregon State for 89th in the nation in rushing. Moving the ball between the 20s is easy in college football, but Navy has had trouble pounding the ball into the end zone against their opponents relative to the Black Knights.
On defense, Navy has been weak, giving up 34.9 points per game. That is good for 109th in the nation, but could have a lot to do with some of their opponents in conference play. The Midshipmen play elite offenses in UCF, USF, and Memphis throughout the year, which often results in high point totals allowed. But when your offense isn’t scoring enough to keep up, that is a huge problem.
For Navy, this game is about one thing and one thing only: pride. Their chances of making a bowl game are gone, as are their chances at the Commander In Chief’s Trophy. But a win over Army would make the entire season a success in the eyes of the team and its fans. So don’t expect them to roll over in a game that would be considered meaningless against any other team.
Army vs. Navy Trends
Army comes into the biggest game of their season at 9-2 straight up on the season and 6-4-1 against the spread. The Black Knights are coming off of a bye, and they are 4-0 against the spread in their last four games following a week off. They are also 5-1 against the spread in their last six December contests, with most of those performances coming in this annual battle for military supremacy.
Navy, meanwhile, are just 3-9 straight up in 2018 and 4-8 against the spread. The Midshipmen are 3-7 against the spread in their last 10 games, including a 2-6 mark against the spread in their last eight games against teams with winning records. Outside of American Athletic Conference play, the waters have been choppy for Navy, with the team failing to win any of its last four games against the spread when facing non-conference foes.