Monday, December 30: Armed Forces Bowl in Ft. Worth, TX at 11:45 pm EST
Navy Midshipmen (8-4) vs. Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (8-4)
Neither of these teams can be accused of backing into a bowl as they each carry a month-long winning streak into the game.
Vegas line/spread: Navy by 6 (over/under 56 1/2)
Fresh off a big win over Army, Navy is a 6 point favorite in their bowl game.
|Game-comparisons||win %||vs. Spread
Navy isn't a great team—they rank only #61 in the Strength power rating despite their 8-4 record—but they outclass MTSU, who ranks #91 despite a similar record. Navy wins over 7 out of 10 game comparisons, and still nearly 6 of 10 against the spread.
Strength power rating: Navy 30, MTSU 21 by Median rating: Navy 31-20
Navy scoring offense: #82 vs. MTSU scoring defense: #96
Navy scoring defense: #42 vs. MTSU scoring offense: #96
Navy is almost a 10-point favorite by our power rating, 9 points when both scores are rounded, 11 points when the teams' median performances are considered representative. Middle Tennessee's scoring offense and defense, adjusted for opposition, both rank a dismal 96th in the nation among all teams (all divisions). Navy's offense isn't much better, but their defense is and that's the difference.
Yardage analysis: Navy 26, MTSU 24 per-play: Navy 35, MTSU 24
Yardage differential: Navy #90 vs. MTSU #91
Navy total offense: #99 vs. MTSU total defense: #83
Navy total defense: #67 vs. MTSU total offense: #80
Using adjusted yardage, these teams are neck and neck, with Navy ranking 90th and Middle Tennessee 91st in yardage differential. Here, MTSU has a better offense, while Navy's defense is still superior. This breakdown projects nearly 400 yards of offense from each team with a slim edge for Navy that ends up a 2-point margin. The per-play measure is skewed by Navy's play-calling and probably offers little insight.
Adjustments to yardage estimate: Navy 34, MTSU 30
- Interceptions: Navy doesn't throw a lot of interceptions because Navy doesn't throw a lot, nor do they get a lot of picks, so interceptions are expected to be low in this game. Navy has a slight edge here of just over a point.
- Forced fumbles: Since Navy carries the ball so much, it's expected that they would have more fumbles, but the difference isn't great. MTSU gains less than a point here.
- Sacks: You would think this is another win for Navy, but the Midshipment rank #118 in sacks by the defense, and allow a surprising amount themselves for a team that passes so little. In the end there probably won't be many sacks in the game but the Blue Raiders gain about 2 points.
- Red zone%: Middle Tennessee's poor red zone performance gives an edge to Navy, who gains about 2 points.
- 3rd-down%: Due to bad defense on both teams' part, both squads should convert around half of their 3rd down opportunities, which increases scoring by nearly 4 points each.
- Special Teams: Navy has great special teams (#15); they get over 2 points, while MTSU has above-average ranking themselves (#51), worth about half a point.
Summary: Navy pulls away just a bit, making a 4 point advantage with higher scoring overall.
When Navy has the ball
|Navy rushing offense: #6
||MTSU rushing defense: #99
Navy runs the ball almost exclusively and they are a top-ten rushing team as a result. Quarterback Keenan Reynolds leads the team with 1,260 yards and they have seven other players above 250 for the season. Reynolds has a stunning 29 touchdowns this year. Middle Tennessee's rushing defense is not very good and based on this we expect Navy to rush for about 330 yards.
When a team run this much, it's good to look at their adjusted per-carry average to see how much of their high ranking is due simply to endless repetitions. Navy ranks 30th in adjusted ypc, which isn't top-tier but is certainly strong. MTSU's defensive ypc is #87, not much better than their per-game average.
|Navy passing offense: #124||MTSU passing defense: #62 per att: #85|
|Navy interceptions thrown ranking: #18||MTSU interceptions picked ranking: #37|
|Navy quarterback protection rank: #57||MTSU pass rush rank: #74|
Navy hardly throws the ball, hence their 2nd-to-last ranking. Keenan Reynolds just barely topped 1,000 yards for the season with 8 touchdowns and 2 picks. Top receiver DeBrandon Sanders has just 217 yards. Navy will probably have just over 50 yards through the air.
Reynolds has just 2 picks, but he's been sacked 15 times against just 121 passing attempts, a ridiculous ratio. So on passing downs Middle Tennessee can have luck applying pressure.
When Middle Tennessee State has the ball
|MTSU rushing offense: #51
||Navy rushing defense: #82
Middle Tennessee has a decent rushing game with Jordan Parker and Reggie Whatley combining for over 1,300 yards and 9 TDs. Navy's rushing defense is vulnerable, and MTSU could gain around 200 yards on the ground.
|MTSU passing offense: #87||Navy passing defense: #38 per att: #48|
|MTSU interceptions thrown ranking: #98||Navy interceptions picked ranking: #103|
|MTSU quarterback protection rank: #43||Navy pass rush rank: #118|
Logan Kilgore has struggled a bit in his senior year, with 2,289 yards and 16 TDs but 11 interceptions. Receivers Tavarres Jefferson and Marcus Henry each barely topped 500 yards to lead the Raiders. Navy's pass defense is pretty good and they should hold MTSU under 200 yards.
Although Kilgore has had an interceptions problem, Navy isn't a great takeaway defense. And further, they rarely sack the quarterback so there might be opportunity for Kilgore to exceed expectations against the Midshipmen.
Navy's season (8-4)
Wins vs. bowl-eligible teams (3)
Wins vs. BCS Top 25 teams (0)
Losses (4) to losing teams (0)
- @ Indiana W 41-35
- Delaware W 51- 7
- @ Western Kentucky L 7-19
- Air Force W 28-10
- @ #24 Duke L 7-35
- @ Toledo L 44-45 2OT
- Pittsburgh W 24-21
- @ Notre Dame L 34-38
- Hawai`i W 42-28
- South Alabama W 42-14
- @ San José St W 58-52 3OT
- = Army W 34- 7
Navy beat three bowl-eligible teams—all of whom finished 6-6, and only one of whom (Pitt) was actually picked for a bowl. They also lost to four bowl teams, including Western Kentucky who wasn't chosen.
Navy's opening 41-35 win over Indiana was pretty impressive even though the Hoosiers disappointed later. And the 51-7 blowout of a solid Delaware team bode well, too. The next three games were offensive duds, as the Midshipment scored just 7 against WKU and Duke, and even 28 against Air Force (in a 28-10 win) was inexcusable. They fell in 2 overtimes to Toledo, 45-44, to stand 3-3.
Then they beat Pittsburgh, 24-21, and nearly upset Notre Dame, falling 38-34. A four-game winning streak ensued including a 3 overtime 58-52 win at San Jose State and a 34-7 win over rival Army. The 2nd half of Navy's season was pretty solid, all things considered.
MTSU's season (8-4)
Wins vs. bowl-eligible teams (2)
Wins vs. BCS Top 25 teams (0)
Losses (4) to losing teams (0)
- Western Carolina W 45-24
- @ North Carolina L 20-40
- Memphis W 17-15
- @ Florida Atlantic W 42-35 OT
- @ Brigham Young L 10-37
- East Carolina L 17-24
- @ North Texas L 7-34
- Marshall W 51-49
- @ UAB W 24-21
- Florida Int'l W 48- 0
- @ Southern Miss W 42-21
- UTEP W 48-17
Middle Tennessee played a pretty tough early schedule and it showed in their record as the Blue Raiders were 3-4 at one point following losses to BYU (37-10), East Carolina (24-17) and North Texas (34-7), all back to back. Their only solid win at that point was beating FAU 42-35 in overtime.
But the 51-49 upset of Marshall keyed a late surge by the team, and the softness of the last month's schedule didn't hurt. MTSU won four more at the end over 2-10 UAB, 1-11 FIU, 1-11 Southern Miss, and 2-10 UTEP.
Two Navy fullbacks are questionable for the game, but as noted the Midshipmen are stocked with replacement parts on offense. Middle Tennessee isn't reporting any new injuries.
Psychology/Motivation - Some (unscientific) factors that may come into play during the game:
- Navy's season: +0 wins; MTSU's season: +0 wins
- Navy's momentum: +2 wins; MTSU's momentum: +2 wins
- Navy won final game: YES; MTSU won final game: YES
- Navy glad to be there? yes; MTSU glad to be there: yes
- Navy time zones from home: 1; MTSU time zones from home: 0;
- Navy coaching situation: stable; MTSU coaching situation: stable
These teams are in largely the same situation. Both were 8-4 last year and are 8-4 this year again. Both won numerous games to finish the season strong after a rocky start. The only difference is that when MTSU went 8-4 last year they weren't selected for a bowl game.
Neither of these teams lost to a bad team all year. But neither did they have a lot of great wins; Navy and MTSU each beat exactly one team that is participating in a bowl game this season.
While each team finished with a lengthy winning streak, Navy's was a bit more impressive. Middle Tennessee had some good moments—beating Marshall is no easy task—but it was mainly a fluke of scheduling that they finished with the #185, #264, #229, and #202 teams in the country. Navy's solid play started in the mid-season where they barely lost to Toledo, upset Pitt, and lost to Notre Dame by 4 points. From there they beat the #112, #93, #77, and #146 teams in the nation. That doesn't make them a BCS bowl hopeful but it's a tougher task than MTSU faced.
The Midshipment have a mixed bowl record at 3-6 over their last 9 appearances. This might be the "triple-option team" effect that plagues Georgia Tech in particular, where a team with a "gimmick" offense does worse when the opponent has time to prepare. It hits Georgia Tech hardest since they are usually facing better competition. Middle Tennessee's rushing defense isn't very good and even given three weeks to prepare they probably can't master it. It could cut into the winning margin, so we call for a narrow Navy win.
Prediction: Navy 27, Middle Tennessee State 23
More previews, odds, and predictions: View the complete 2013-2014 bowl game schedule.