The first leg of the 2015 Commander-in-Chief series is actually a battle of two hot teams with Air Force looking like a dangerous underdog visiting Navy in Annapolis Saturday.
In what could be one of the better Commander-in-Chief battles in quite some time Saturday, the Air Force Falcons (2-1, 3-0 ATS) head east to pay a visit to the undefeated Navy Midshipmen (3-0, 3-0 ATS) at Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, MD at 3:30 ET in a game televised nationally on CBS Sports Network.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Air Force as a moderate road underdog for this contest with the current line at +5 with odds of -106.
3-0 for First Time Since 2006
Navy was the winning college football pick for the third time in as many games last week 28-18 on the road at Connecticut, making the Midshipmen 3-0 for the first time since 2006. As usual, the Navy triple option is doing it on the ground ranking third in the nation in rushing with 363.0 yards per game on the ground while getting great senior leadership from quarterback Keenan Reynolds and running back Chris Swain.
However, you cannot sleep on the Air Force here either as the Falcons are 2-1 with the loss coming to the second ranked team in the country at Michigan State in their last game two weeks ago, and they covered the point spread in that 35-21 loss, leaving them at an identically perfect 3-0 ATS as Navy. And the Falcons are actually ahead of Navy ranking second in the country in rushing at 367.0 yards per game while running an identical triple option.
First Year in AAC
Navy has been an Independent for many, many years but the Middies have made the move to the AAC this season and they have looked like contenders for the West Division title as they are already 2-0 inside the conference, preceding the road win vs. Connecticut by winning the first AAC game in Navy history 45-21 here at home over East Carolina. Those two conference wins followed a season-opening 48-10 toying of Colgate out of the FCS.
Navy has now won seven straight games going back to last season and, at 3-0, it even garnered some votes in the AP poll this week, although not enough to crack the Top 25. Still, this looks like one of the better Navy teams of recent times and the move to the AAC could help the Midshipmen’s standing as it has resulted in a better schedule than recent years.
With all of that being said, Air Force is just as good if not better than most AAC teams and Navy will feel like it is looking in the mirror when facing the Air Force offense. And remember that it was Air Force that prevailed out west in Fort Collins last season 30-21 vs. basically the same Navy team as this one with so many seniors on the roster.
Two Weeks to Prepare Could be Huge
Air Force was ultra game at East Lansing while obviously being outmanned by the second ranked Spartans, although not all the news was good as starting quarterback Nate Romine was lost for the season after tearing both his ACL and MCL. However, his backup Karson Roberts stepped right in and passed for 149 yards in just nine pass attempts, meaning Air Force will still have a true triple option with him at the helm with the pass being a legitimate threat.
That covering loss for the Falcons was preceded by an opening 63-7 romp of Morgan State of the FCS, following by probably a more impressive handy 37-16 win over San Jose State, given the rise in competition. And the Air Force certainly validated itself with the respectable showing in East Lansing.
And do not underestimate the importance of the bye week, giving Air Force two weeks to prepare for an offense that mirrors its own. That extra preparation time could make all the difference when two offenses this similar oppose each other.
Winner of This Game to Take Home Trophy?
Note that this game has decided the Commander-in-Chief Trophy each of the last 18 years with Army not hoisting the trophy since 1996. It appears that the same should be true again this year with this being the deciding game of the series, as Army once again appears to be a rung below these two academies talent wise.
Navy may be the team receiving AP votes, but Air Force showed that it can play with anyone at Michigan State, and with two weeks to prepare for this game, take the points with the Falcons when they visit Annapolis on Saturday.
College Football Pick: Air Force +5 (-106)