The college football bowl season is upon us. With 39 games spread out over the next two and a half weeks there is plenty of opportunity to add a little bonus to your holiday gift pile. Our bowl picks series will let you know who we think will come out on top against the spread. All lines and totals courtesy of Sportsline. Find all our picks here. All lines are as of the date of publication.
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman
Virginia (6-6) vs. Navy (6-6)
Spread: Navy -1
Spread: Year 2 under Bronco Mendenhall produced fruit for the Cavaliers as they’re making their first bowl appearance since 2011. They did it with a stingy defense and an efficient QB who didn’t turn the ball over frequently. Kurt Benkert threw just eight interceptions compared to 25 touchdowns this season while completing just under 60 percent of his passes (59.6). He distributed the ball well as Olamide Zaccheaus, Doni Dowling and Andy Levrone all had 600+ yards receiving. Zaccheaus was the possession guy (10.4 YPC) while Levrone was the deep threat (21.4 YPC). The running game wasn’t very effective, averaging under 100 yards and just 3.2 yards per carry this season.
The defense allowed over 26 points per game, but just 358 yards per game this season and held opponents to under 200 yards through the air. They did allow 4.2 yards per carry and 179 yards rushing to opponents which could be a big problem for this match-up. Another potential problem is the status of leading tackler Micah Kiser. He’s listed as probable with an injured thumb, but how effective he is with the injury will be something to watch.
Another year, another bowl berth for Coach Niumatalolo and the Midshipmen. In ten years under Niumatalolo, the Mids have reached the postseason nine times. They did regress from last year offensively, averaging about nine fewer points per game, but they also cut down on the points they allowed defensively (31 to 27.9). Interestingly, after QB Zach Abey started the year hot, Navy started to turn towards RB Malcolm Perry at the QB spot down the stretch of the season. You likely saw Perry’s performance in the Army-Navy game, and he’s interesting because he presents a different look for the Navy offense, operating out of the shotgun and running more of a read-option style as opposed to the traditional triple-option. Abey can absolutely still be in play here, but I’m interested to see which style the Mids go with in this game. Defensively, Navy struggled against the pass allowing opponents to complete 63 percent of their passes for 221 yards per game. The run defense was a shade better than Virginia’s giving up 164 yards per game on 4.5 yards per carry.
Both teams were even up against the spread this season with Navy going 5-5-2 and UVA going 6-6. The Mids are slight favorites here, but it’s close. In all honesty, you can likely flip a coin here for the outcome, but I’ll go with the Mids. Navy -1
Total: Neither team was good at hitting the over this year with Navy going 4-8 against the total and Virginia at 5-7. With Navy’s run-heavy tendency to go on long, drawn out drives, 55 seems high here. Under 55.