The Army Black Knights will be trying beat the Navy Midshipmen for a third consecutive year when these two service academies square off at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon. Army is 9-2 overall in 2018 and currently enjoying a seven-game winning streak. The Midshipmen, on the other hand, are 3-9 this season and 1-8 in their last nine contests.
Last chance for romance
Navy is going to finish with a losing record for the first time since 2002. The team started 2-1 with a solid win of American Athletic Conference runner-up Memphis and it scraped past Tulsa 37-29 on Nov. 17. But wins have too few and far between for the Midshipmen, who lost seven in a row early in the 2018 campaign (including 42-0 against Cincinnati) and they are coming off a 29-28 setback against Tulane.
“It has obviously been disappointing,” admitted senior linebacker Hudson Sullivan. “It’s not the kind of season that any of us even remotely imagined we would have had,” said Sullivan, who will be playing in his fourth Army-Navy game, the last two of which his team has lost. When the season started we were looking forward to having a winning season, beating Army, playing for the conference championship and going to a bowl game. That didn’t happen. So as big as winning the Army-Navy game usually is, it would mean more this year…. We’re going into the game to play as hard as we can and to beat Army and put a black mark on their season. As seniors, it would be a great way to end our career.”
— Navy Football (@NavyFB) December 3, 2018
Sullivan has persevered through an injury-plagued season to play in all 12 games. He is second on Navy with 80 tackles (40 unassisted). He has recorded at least 10 tackles on three occasions and made a career-high 13 stops last year against Army. Fellow inside linebacker Taylor Heflin leads the way with 93 tackles this season. Unfortunately for the Midshipmen, their defense as a whole cannot stop anyone. It is allowing 6.7 yards per play and 34.9 points per game. The offense is averaging 5.0 yards per rush, but that is well below the lofty standards of this particular program. It’s especially modest given that Navy once again features no passing game of which to speak (72.2 yards per contest through the air).
Cadets poised for two straight vs. Navy
Whereas Navy is way, way under .500 for the first time in a while, Army is fortunate to find itself on the other end of the spectrum. The Black Knights are on win away from posting back-to-back 10-win seasons, having previously failed to reach that mark since 1996. They pushed Oklahoma, which is participating in the College Football Playoff, to overtime in September. That is why Army is a touchdown favorite over Navy, which it edged 14-13 in an absolutely wild one–and snowy one–last December.
Running back Darnell Woolfolk rushed for 57 yards and a touchdown on 12 attempts in last season’s defeat of Navy. As a senior, Woolfolk has carried 194 times for 823 yards and 14 scores. He has found the end zone in seven consecutive contests for a total of 11 times during this stretch. Army’s offense actually averages fewer yards per play (5.28) than that of the Midshipmen, but the key difference is that the Black Knights are effective when they take to the air. They average 10.5 yards per pass attempt, putting them behind only Alabama and Oklahoma in that department.
The Army Black Knights are:
- 4-1 ATS in their last five neutral-site games
- 4-0 ATS in their last four games following a bye week
- 5-1 ATS in their last six games on grass
The Navy Midshipmen are:
- 3-7 ATS in their last 10 overall
- 2-6 ATS in their last eight games against teams with winning records
- 0-4 ATS in their last four non-conference games
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Army is quite simply a superior football team on both sides of the ball. The Black Knights run the ball just as well and are capable of moving the ball via the pass. Navy, meanwhile, averages 7.7 yards per attempt (45th in the nation, 42 spots behind its arch rival). As for defense, the Midshipmen are 11th-worst in the country in yards allowed per play and 22nd-worst in points allowed per game. Look for the Black Knights to take a quick lead and eventually force the opposition into passing situations–which would be a disaster for the Naval Academy. Army is 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings between the two teams.
Prediction: Army Black Knights
Full-Game Total Pick
Army’s defense may be unspectacular, but it is solid. It is surrendering only 18.7 points (17th in the nation) and 15.5 first downs per contest (sixth fewest in the nation). The Black Knights held Oklahoma to a season-low 28 points. Navy, meanwhile, averages only 5.38 yards per play on offense (94th in the nation). The under is 9-3 in the Midshipmen’s last 12 neutral-site contests, 13-6 in their last 19 on grass, and 5-1 in their last six against independent opponents. It is also 10-4 in the Black Knights’ last 14 on grass, 5-1 in their last six against the American Athletic Conference, and 13-3 in their last 16 in December. Additionally, the under is 16-5 in the last 21 meetings between the two teams. Look for this one to stay under the total.