It might not be the most heated rivalry in college football, but many would make the argument that it’s the most storied when Army and Navy collide. It’s a game so important it gets the entire college weekend to itself. This year’s 112th meeting is at FedEx Field outside of Washington, D.C., the first time Army-Navy has been held in the Capital Beltway.
Both clubs will have had a three-week break since their last game, and that length of break is fairly new. In 2009, as conference championship games essentially took over the first weekend of December, this game was moved to the second weekend of the month.
Neither team will be headed to a bowl game this season, so this will conclude the season for each. Navy (4-7) had a two-game winning streak snapped back on Nov. 19 with a 27-24 loss at San Jose State. That officially ended Navy’s streak of eight straight years in a bowl game. Army (3-8) lost at Temple on Nov. 19, 42-14, for its third straight loss and fifth in six games.
And here’s a ‘did you know?’: The first-ever use of instant replay in American sports occurred at the end of the 1963 CBS broadcast of that year’s Army-Navy game, won by Navy 21-15. Apparently the technology was so unfamiliar that many viewers thought Army had scored twice to win the game.
Army vs. Navy Betting Story lines
There is one key injury to note here, and it’s to Army starting QB Trent Steelman. He left that loss to Temple after Army's second play. Steelman was returning from a high left ankle injury after missing the previous three games, and departed with a right leg injury. As of this writing, he’s still questionable for Navy, although all that time off would seem to make it likely Steelman plays.
If Steelman, who has 583 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns on the ground this season, can’t go, freshman Angel Santiago, who’s played in four games this season and completed 7-of-21 pass attempts, would likely start.
Don’t expect perhaps even 21 total pass attempts in this game. Army leads the nation in rushing yards per game at 350.9 and is last in passing at only 48.0 ypg. Steelman has attempted just 39 passes all year and thrown for 347 yards. He only reached double-digit attempts in the season opener.
Navy is No. 4 in rushing (313.7 ypg) and second-to-last in passing (92.4). Senior QB Kriss Proctor, who will be playing his final game, is 51-for-100 for 774 yards passing and leads the team with 817 rushing yards and 12 scores. His season-high in attempts is 24.
Navy beat Army last year 31-17 in Philadelphia as a 7.5-point favorite for its ninth straight win in the series, by far the longest streak for either school vs. its rival. The next longest streak for Navy is five wins, which happened twice from 1939-1943 and 1959-63.
Proctor didn’t play last year, while Steelman actually threw it 20 times and completed 11 for 128 yards and two scores. He also led Army with 74 yards rushing on 19 carries, but he had a crucial fumble as Army was about to score a late second-quarter touchdown that was instead returned for a 98-yard score by Navy for a 24-7 lead.
During the nine-game winning streak, Navy has outscored Army 322-91. The closest game during that stretch came in 2006 when the Midshipmen won 26-14. Before last season, Army hadn’t scored a TD against Navy since that ’06 game.
It appears that whichever team scores first will win. Navy is 4-0 this season when leading after the first quarter, but is 0-4 when trailing. The Black Knights have allowed four opponents to score in the first two minutes of play this year. Army went 1-3 in those games.
Army vs. Navy Betting Odds and Trends
Navy opened as a seven-point favorite with the total at 56 on NCAA football odds.
Five of Navy’s seven losses this year have come by a combined total of 11 points. Navy is just 1-5 in games decided by eight points or less; that’s the third-most losses in the country at that margin.
Army is 5-6 ATS this season and 6-5 for "over/unders"; Navy is 6-5 ATS and 6-5 "O/U."
Navy is 3-7 ATS in past 10 after a loss. Army is 5-0 ATS in past five after allowing at least 40 points in previous game.
The "under" is 5-0 in the past five meetings. The road team has covered four of past five in series (Army technically road team this year).
College Football Picks: Army vs. Navy Betting Preview
The good news is that unlike squabbling Texas and Texas A&M, with the Aggies off to the SEC, this rivalry will continue even if Navy heads to the Big East, as expected, for football.
Army and Navy will both wear specially-designed uniforms for this year's game. Nike worked with both institutions to create unique versions of the company's Pro Combat uniforms.
The Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy is not up for grabs this year as Air Force keeps the award after beating both Army and Navy.
The Mids have won the past two in this series by 14, so that sounds about right to me again this year, thus give the points.
That total seems very high—I could only find it at one book as of this writing. But if it’s accurate, I love the "under."
Doc Moseman is the owner of Doc’s Sports football picks Web site.