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Reply To: NCAA Week 15 • Saturday Service Plays • 12/12/15

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Steve Merril

(3% play) UNDER 50.5 – (Army/Navy)
3:00 pm ET (CBS) #104
The Under is a perfect 9-0 the past nine years in this series. It is not a surprise as both teams run the exact same option-offense and each defense is very familiar defending the run. The past nine head-to-head meetings have averaged just 36 total points per game, despite the average Over/Under line being posted at 52 points. The oddsmakers continue to base the total on the overall seasonal numbers for each team, but this is not an accurate projection on how these games play out on the field. In fact, the same Under trend has been prevalent when facing the other military option team, Air Force, as well. This season the Navy/Air Force game totaled just 44 total points (O/U line 49.5), while the Army/Air Force game totaled only 23 points scored (O/U line 50.5). Army is now 14-3 Under in recent games versus Navy and Air Force, while Navy is on an incredible 17-2 Under run versus the other two service academies.

The reason these military games are lower scoring than expected is because the oddsmakers use overall season statistics which are inflated. The military academies are less athletic in the defensive backfield, and unfamiliar with passing offenses, so opponents often put up big passing numbers. Meanwhile, option offenses normally have more success against conventional defensive opponents who are not familiar with stopping a run-heavy attack. This means both offensive and defensive seasonal scoring numbers are inflated for the service academies in regular games, but this does not apply when two service academies face each other because they all run the triple-option offense which means very few passes are thrown. This means less big plays and more game clock being consumed on drives.

Army’s weak defensive numbers this season are largely the result of a terrible pass defense that has allowed 62% completions and 8.3 yards per pass (versus opponents that average just 57% and 7.3 ypp). Army’s secondary has been particularly bad on the road, allowing 68% completions and 9.2 ypp. However, this defensive weakness is irrelevant today against a Navy offense that has run the ball on 88% of their total offensive plays this season (58 runs, 8 passes per game). Army’s run defense has actually been respectable this year, allowing just 163 yards and 4.5 yards per rush (versus opponents that average 156 yards and 4.2 ypr).

Navy has been a solid defensive team this season, allowing just 21.7 points per game and only 3.9 yards per rush (versus opponents that average 29.4 ppg and 4.5 ypr). The Midshipmen should have no trouble stopping a weak Army offense that averages just 22.5 points per game this year (versus opponents that allow 28.9 ppg). Army has run the ball on 87% of their total offensive plays this season (52 runs, 8 passes per game), so the Black Knights will have a tough time playing from behind in this game, especially since they average a paltry 44% completions overall this year.

Play UNDER (Army/Navy) as a 3% play.