After being dominated by Navy for more than a decade, Army has won four of the last five college football games between the long-time rivals. For the 2021 meeting at MetLife Stadium, sportsbooks have the Black Knights favored by 7 to 7.5-points to make it five of six. But when it comes to rivalries, especially ones as intense as this one, it is never wise to take the underdog lightly.
The last time the Army-Navy game was played in East Rutherford, in 2002, the Midshipmen won the first of 14 in a row, the longest streak in the 100+ year history of the rivalry.
The total ticked up in early wagering, from as low as 33.5 to the 34.5-35 range by Friday. The number still seems incredibly low until you consider a staggering trend to the ‘under’ in this series.
NCAAF · Sat (12/11) @ 3:13pm ET
|MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ|
Army Black Knights (8-3 SU, 6-5 ATS)
Opponents know what they are going to get when they face Army. When the Black Knights have the ball, they will run, run, and run some more. It’s an old-school style of play, but it is what Army has done for years — and it is pretty good at it.
The Army rushing attack was the second-best in the country this season, averaging 301.2 yards per game. As for the passing game, the Black Knights average fewer than 100 yards a game, but that is by design. Army’s offense ran the ball on close to 90 percent of its plays this season.
Quarterback Christian Anderson threw the ball only four times in Army’s last regular-season game (against Liberty). He accounted for 44 of Army’s 85 pass attempts this season and had 10+ pass attempts just twice.
While running the ball is the key to success on offense, stopping opponents from doing so has been what Army’s defense does best. Teams have struggled to run on the Knights this season, averaging just 103.0 yards per game (11th in the nation), which could mean trouble for the run-heavy Navy offense.
Navy Midshipmen (3-8 SU, 7-4 ATS)
It has not been a stellar season for the Midshipmen, but they have been competitive in several of their losses. Navy took a 17-14 lead against Houston into the fourth quarter before losing, 28-20. SMU did not get the go-ahead score until midway through the fourth quarter. Cincinnati beat them by only a touchdown.
Navy can play good football, and it seems to do so when it is playing better teams. That could benefit underdog bettors with the Midshipmen facing a solid Army team this weekend.
Like the Black Knights, the Navy offense is heavy on the run — the Midshipmen’s ground game is not as effective as Army’s. Their rushing attack does rank seventh in the country with an average of 228.2 yards per game. They also struggle to throw the ball on the rare occasion they do (54.5 yards per game).
Of course, when you do not generate much offense, it can be hard to score. The 38 points they put up on Temple in their last game was their season-high and just the third time they scored 30+ points this season. In the other eight, the Midshipmen scored 20 points or fewer.
As for their defense, it only gives up 359.2 yards per game. But teams make the most of those yards, scoring close to 30 points a game.
Army-Navy Total And Betting Analysis
Recent history has been kind to underdogs in this series. Dating back to 1995, the underdog has won the game outright on four occasions (1996, 2000, 2016, and 2017). During Navy’s 14-year stretch of dominance from 2002-15, Army covered the spread six times (2006, ’09, ’11, ’12, ’14, and ’15).
History also favors the ‘under’, and in a big way — the bet is on a 15-game run in the series.
But that trend should be put in context of this historically low over/under. Should his total hold at 35.5 or less, it will be the lowest total in this series since at least 1995. In fact, at 34, it would be the lowest total of any college football game in the last 20 seasons, per ESPN data.
Each team has had just one game this season where fewer than 34 points were scored. Army, in fact, has scored 38+ by itself five times this season. Still, it’s hard to go against a 15-0 betting trend.
While the underdog — Navy in this case — should not be underestimated in this rivalry, six of Army’s eight wins have been by double-digits this season. This game probably makes it seven of nine.