Our Pick: Memphis -9 (-110)
Navy Midshipmen, with one of the lowest-scoring, most predictable offenses in the nation, travel to Memphis, Tennessee, this week. The timing could not be better for the Tigers.
Navy, from Annapolis, Maryland, has lost their past three games, by a combined 12 points, and they’ll be seeking to unleash a devastating Seth Hanigan-to-Calvin Austin III hookup in the Liberty Bowl.
Navy Midshipmen (1-4)
The Middies hit the road after a somewhat stunning victory at home against Central Florida and having played SMU tight, again on their familiar turf.
But they have issues, starting with (as usual) a rushing attack that serves as the foundation of everything they do. They run 81.8% of the time, the third-highest rate in college football.
It’s also no surprise that the only two programs that feature the ground game more frequently are Army (90.5%) and Air Force (88.5%). The service academies have had a tough time luring blue-chip throwing quarterbacks.
When Navy does toss it in the air on those rare occasions, its three quarterbacks have completed only 40% of their attempts. That is the lowest success rate in the country.
Of their 59 runs per game, the Midshipmen average 220 yards, a top-20 figure. They gain a top-40 3.6 yards per rush, and Memphis yields four yards per run. Memphis knows the smash-mouth style is heading its way.
However, Navy’s average of 3.9 overall yards per play is among the bottom five in the nation. Its average of 0.246 points per play is in the bottom 15 and its 63 passing yards per game is in football’s cellar.
None of Navy’s three quarterbacks—Tai Lavatai, Xavier Arline, or Maasai Maynor—have completed more than seven passes. Lavatai and Arline have run a combined 112 times for 300 yards and four touchdowns.
The rest of that pounding attack is comprised of fullbacks Isaac Ruoss and James Harris II (combined 450 yards), and slot-back Carlinos Acie, who averages 6.6 yards per run.
The Memphis secondary will be able to key on the run, knowing even when Navy attempts a rare pass it will be its own worst enemy.
Navy At Memphis Full Sportsbook Odds
Memphis Tigers (3-3)
Calvin Austin III, all 5-feet-9 and 162 pounds of the fifth-year senior and home-grown product of Memphis, has become a national sensation who will menace Navy’s secondary throughout Thursday’s game.
That ESPN is airing it to a national television audience is good news for Austin, bad news for Middies’ cornerbacks and safeties.
He is a pocket rocket, possessing 4.47-second speed in the 40-yard dash. That’s among the top dozen fastest wideouts in the nation, according to second-generation Vegas bookmaker Kenny White.
Austin leads the country with 837 receiving yards, on 48 catches. In a victory at Arkansas State, he nabbed six passes for 239 yards—seven inches shy of a 40-yard average—and three TDs.
Last week, in a defeat at Tulsa, he caught 13 for 200 yards (a 15.4 average) and a TD. He has eight touchdowns on the season.
The Wing Guru, a popular Memphis eatery, wisely inked Austin to an NIL (Name–Image–Likeness) deal just after the season started. The shop knew he favored its honey-golden wings, so it was mutually beneficial.
The quarterback responsible for feeding Austin on the field is Seth Hanigan, who was not even on the Memphis three-deep roster in the summer.
A 6-2, 195-pound true freshman from Denton, Texas, Hanigan has gone 130-for-215 (60.5%) for 1,938 yards, 14 TDs and three interceptions.
That is an impressive tandem, but Navy figures to be confounded by the stellar balance that Memphis displays, something every coach aims to achieve.
The Tigers pass it 37 times a game, and they average 35 runs. Navy safeties will always know where Austin is, and linebackers will be swiveling their coconuts as to whether Memphis is running or passing the ball.
Third-year sophomore receiver Jason Ivory (6-2, 180) and Super Senior tight end Sean Dykes (6-2, 224) both average nearly 17 yards on their receptions—Ivory with 16, Dykes 26.
Brandon Thomas, a 5-11, 200-pound true freshman from Little Rock, Ark., emerged from a half-dozen candidates as the main ground weapon, with a 6.4-yard average on 92 carries.
Rodrigues Clark, a sophomore from Starkville, Miss., doesn’t slow down when he spells Thomas, averaging 6.7 yards on his 42 runs. Those two have scored nine times for the Tigers.
Sports Betting Recommendation
For Navy’s sake, it’s too bad this one will be on national TV. All three of our prized models have Memphis winning by at least nine points, with two giving 14- and 22-point triumphs to the Tigers.
Does Memphis hit 30? Yes. Does Navy have extreme difficulty in scoring 20? Yes.