For another look at today’s bowl game, check out our brief video:
When and where: December 22, 2018, Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX, 3:30 PM ET
The Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl will pit the Army Knights against the Houston Cougars in Fort Worth, Texas. Army is looking to win its third consecutive bowl game after another spectacular 10-win season. They ended things on a solid note by defeating rival Navy 17-10 for their eighth straight win. Meanwhile, things got a bit dicey in the final stretch for Houston in a blowout loss to Memphis. They have lost three of their last four games.
A different looking Houston team
The Cougars didn’t necessarily end the regular season on a high note after getting trounced on the road by Memphis. They were also playing without starting quarterback D’Eriq King, who went down in mid-November against Tulane with a knee injury. Before the season-ending injury, King led all FBS quarterbacks with 50 total touchdowns (passing and rushing combined).
— Houston Football (@UHCougarFB) December 17, 2018
Backup Clayton Tune took over against Memphis and went 18-of-43 passing for 256 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. It wasn’t a bad performance for a true freshman getting his first start of the season against a tough Memphis team.
The Cougars defense didn’t do him any favors by giving up 401 yards rushing. Tigers running back Darrell Henderson in particular chewed up the Cougars’ defensive front with 178 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Along with King, All-American defensive tackle Ed Oliver also won’t be available for the Cougars in Saturday’s game against the Black Knights. The junior has decided to declare for the NFL Draft and skip out on the final game of the season.
Oliver’s decision was met with support throughout the Houston football program, including head coach Major Applewhite.
“I think about some of the goals that he had when he came in,” Applewhite said on the topic, per the Houston Chronicle’s Joseph Duarte. “One was to play for a conference championship and have an opportunity to win it. He gave us everything that he had two weeks ago for his team to do that. Another was to be the best player in the country and to win national awards—he did it. I know a degree is still one of his goals, and he’ll come back and get that. But also, a goal was to put himself in a position to have great earning power, and he’s done that. This is a business decision, and we’ve talked this season about these things and understand the reality of it and how close he is to his dreams, and I support him—we support him—whole-heartedly and appreciate everything he did. He’s a phenomenal player.”
Can Army three-peat?
Army head coach Jeff Monken has led his team to back-to-back bowl titles over North Texas at the 2016 Heart of Dallas Bowl and San Diego State at the 2017 Armed Forces Bowl. Could the Black Knights win three consecutive bowl games in a row on Saturday?
— Army Football (@ArmyWP_Football) December 9, 2018
It’s entirely possible considering how well they’ve played in 2018. Their only losses came against Duke and Oklahoma, culminating in a 10-2 record with eight consecutive wins at the end of the season. It’s easy to forget how tough they played Oklahoma earlier in the season. Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray was held to only 165 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Oklahoma barely edged the Black Knights 28-21.
“Who wants to see Kyler Murray on the field with the ball?” said Monken, via the Star-Telegram. “Our guys know who we are. We’re rarely, if ever, the more talented football team, but our guys understand that we’ve got to be tough and fundamentally sound and play together. If we’ll do those things and maximize our potential, that we’ll have a chance to beat anybody.”
Monken’s Black Knights toppled Navy in their most recent outing 17-10.
Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. rushed for 64 yards and two touchdowns, along with running backs Darnell Woolfolk, Kell Walker and Andy Davidson rushing for a combined 149 yards. Defensive back Jaylon McClinton was all over Navy’s offense, leading Army’s defense with nine tackles.
- Black Knights are 6-0-1 ATS against teams with a winning record
- Black Knights are 3-0-1 ATS in their last 4 neutral site games
- Black Knights are 5-1-1 ATS in their last 7 games played in December
- Black Knights are 5-1-1 ATS in their last 7 games played on grass
- Cougars are 2-5-1 ATS in their last 8 games played in December
- Cougars are 2-7 ATS in their last 9 games after allowing more than 200 rushing yards in the previous game
- Cougars are 1-4 ATS against teams with a winning record
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Another bowl game appearance will lead to a third consecutive title ceremony for the Black Knights.
Houston didn’t have a great rushing defense with Oliver on the roster. They ranked 95th in the country against the run and gave up an average of 197.5 rushing yards per game. Now, they’ll be tasked with stopping the No. 2-ranked offense without their best defensive player up front. It’s going to be a long day for the Cougars as the Black Knights bully them in the trenches and eat up yards with their triple option offense.
Tune has big shoes to fill in King’s absence, and it’s asking a lot of a freshman to do so on this stage against one of the country’s most underrated defenses. It was no fluke that Murray struggled a bit against the Black Knights’ defense—a unit that ranks 12th in the country in total yards allowed. Army will control the time of possession on offense, and the defense will force Tune into making critical mistakes that ultimately will cost Houston the game.
Prediction: Army Black Knights (-4.5)
Full-Game Total Pick
The under is 5-0 in the Cougars’ last five games played on grass and 23-8 in the Black Knights’ last 31 against teams with a winning record. There isn’t much hope offensively for a Cougars team being led by a freshman quarterback against a top-15 defense. Army will eat up the clock rather quickly by constantly pounding the football on the ground and moving the chains. It’ll be a lopsided win for the Black Knights, but it won’t cross the 60-point line. Take the under in this game.
Prediction: Under (60)