A more balanced offensive attack by the underdogs could be the key to keeping this game close and possibly maybe even pulling off an upset when those Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (8-4) take on the Navy Midshipmen (7-4) in the Armed Forces Bowl from Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, TX on Monday, December 30th at 11:45am ET in a game televised nationally on ESPN.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Middle Tennessee State as a decided underdog for this contest with the current line at +6 with odds of -106.
Believe it or not, this is the first time that Navy has participated in the Armed Forces Bowl since its inception in 2003, with Air Force or Army filling the military slots every year until now. Air Force lost 33-14 to Rice last season, and we feel that although they are favored, the Midshipmen could also be valuable as the military representative this year.
Yes, Navy has one of the best rushing attacks in the country, but it is so one-dimensional in that area that it may be relatively easy to game plan for with a full month of preparation time. Middle Tennessee State on the other hand has a much more balanced attack.
The Blue Raiders enter this contest on a nice roll as they have won five straight games since a 3-4 start, allowing them to finish 6-2 in Conference USA and just one game behind Marshall in the East Division, the same Marshall team against whom the current winning streak began with a 51-49 thriller back on October 24th as 10-point underdogs.
Middle Tennessee has averaged 42.6 points during the winning streak while scoring at least 42 points in four of the five wins, with Jordan Parker leading a rushing attack that ranks 28th in the country with 207.1 yards per game on the ground. The success of Parker could help set up the passing game with Logan Kilgore under center.
Kilgore was considered an NFL prospect at the beginning of this season, but his stock has taken a bit of a dip as he has thrown 11 interceptions vs. just 16 touchdowns while completing 61.2 percent of his passes.
He does still have 2289 passing yards in 12 games though and we like his chances of stepping up and getting back into the good graces of the NFL scouts here vs. a Navy team that is ranked 66th in the land in passing defense yielding 230.8 yards per game and 23 touchdown passes while allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 70.5 percent of their passes.
Now, Navy actually still has another game coming up as of this writing with the Army-Navy Game being the final game of the regular season, but we do not envision anything happening in that contest that would change what to expect in this bowl game. And what to expect are runs to the left, runs to the right and runs up the middle.
That is because the Midshipmen rank third in the country on rushing yards with their 322.0 per game, and they do not try to fool teams much as they average less that 100 passing yards (98.9) to rank 124th nationally out of 125 FBS teams. In case you are wondering, only their military brethren from Army average less with 80.5 passing yards.
Yes, MTSU had had trouble defending the run over the course of the season, but look for improvement in that area here with both having a whole month to prepare and not having to worry about defending the pass.
With that in mind, look for Middle Tennessee State to either keep it close or pull the outright upset in the Armed Forces Bowl.
College Football Pick: Middle Tennessee State +6 (-106)